Buffalo Bills to retire Hall of Fame defender Smith's number

New York (AFP) –


Bruce Smith, a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Buffalo Bills, will have his jersey number retired at the NFL club's 2016 home opener, the team announced Wednesday.

No player has worn Smith's number, 78, since his final season with Buffalo in 1999 and it will be set aside permanently during a half-time ceremony when the Bills play host to the New York Jets on September 15.

Smith, 52, will join quarterback Jim Kelly as the only players in Bills history to have their numbers retired, with Kelly's number 12 having been so honored in 2001.

"We feel this is a tremendous opportunity to honor Bruce and his Hall of Fame career," Bills president Russ Brandon said. "We believe it's going to be a great night for Bruce, his family and Bills fans everywhere."

Smith is the NFL's all-time leader with 200 career sacks over 19 league seasons, playing for the Bills from 1985-1999 and his final four campaigns for the Washington Redskins before calling in quits for good in 2003.

"I'm humbled beyond words," Smith said. "I'm very grateful and thankful."

Smith, the first overall selection of the 1985 NFL Draft, was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was voted to the Pro Bowl all-star game 11 times. Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

"Bruce Smith was 100 percent football player," Kelly said. "Bruce Smith was all about wanting to be the best possible football player he could be. He wanted to be the best that ever played, and pretty much, as I look at it, even though he was a teammate of mine, I think he definitely is one of the best defensive ends ever to play the game."