I'm often asked, "Who was your favorite Bills player growing up?" and the answer is, I didn't really have one. For whatever reasons, I never had allegiances towards one player. I guess I was your classic old-school coach who preached about the front of the jersey rather than the back.
However, sometimes I look back and think about who should have been my favorite player if I elected to have one. Jim Kelly? Everyone loved his moxie. Thurman Thomas? Pound for pound, the best offensive player in Bills history. Bruce Smith? Tasker? Hull?
But you know what? I'm going to throw a curveball and say Frank Reich. There was just something noble about his chivalrous demeanor. While most fans under 25 don't remember Reich and only hear stories about The Comeback Game, Reich set himself apart from the rest of the Bills because of his attitude.
Everyone knows the majority of the '90s Bills were kind of assholes off the field. Truth be told, the stories/rumors about Jim Kelly's bar escapades didn't endear him to some fans who thought he was just a giant asshole. And because of that, the backup QB, like in many towns, became a popular guy for some.
But it wasn't just about The Comeback Game or the typical love for the backup underdog, it was how Frank seemed to be this All-American guy. Moms who go to church on Sundays and bring cupcakes to PTA meetings loved him. They wished their son could grow up to be like Frank or that their daughter could bring home a guy like him. When he spoke, the honor and loyalty poured out onto his microphone and into the ears of many. He was just very sincere.
He'd be the guy who would probably have to be the Designated Driver for when the Bills went out on the town. He had to make sure everyone got cabs or didn't vomit all over the floor. Hell, he probably fed Kelly coffee and water to sober him up before meetings the next morning. I can just picture him sitting at the bar, quietly judging how the Bills were a bunch of knuckleheads when they drank, and then striking up a friendly conversation with a stranger who said hello. He'd also rescue a cat from a tree or work in a soup kitchen. I kid you not, this isn't hyperbole, this is reality. He was kind of like a poor man's LaFontaine with regards to what he did for the community. Just a solid, clean-cut guy.
Oh, and he was a good QB when he actually played. Check the box scores in 1989 and 1990. Go to YouTube. It amazes me that he never really got a shot at starting in the NFL during his prime, never demanded a trade so he could get that shot. But that wasn't Frank. The man didn't have an ego and I think he enjoyed watching the stars of this team become stars and being there to support them when he was needed.
Maybe it was his religious virtues or being a family man while playing or being surrounded by an Animal House locker room that made the guy stand out, but to me, it was about how the man stood tall with what was right in life.
I was thrilled when I found out he was named OC for the Chargers. And, as awful as this sounds, the thought crossed my mind that in two years, if SD keeps their offense going and Doug Marrone fails, I would TOTALLY sign up for Reich to be our coach. Is it the narrative dream of a beloved former player swooping in to save the day? Sure. But I would pick him first on the list of ex-Bills I'd want to return here and be a part of the organization.
In a world where nothing good seems to happen or we just focus on the negativity, I just happen to be a sucker for good guys having good things happen to them. Frank Reich, ladies and gentleman, the man I should have rooted for as a kid and the man I hope kids aspire to be like.