This offseason, thousands of fans voted in our "Team For the Ages" contest to construct the best imaginable 50-man roster from the NFL’s modern era, which began in 1967. The votes have been counted, and we’re unveiling one player each weekday between now and the kickoff of the 2018 NFL season.
DE Bruce Smith
Smith, the first overall player selected in the 1985 draft, holds the NFL record with 200 sacks, and the postseason sack record with 14½.
Smith recorded double-digit sacks a record 13 times, earning 11 Pro Bowl nominations, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and spots on the NFL's 1980s and 1990s All-Decade teams.
They said it
“Bruce likes to do things quietly, when he doesn’t think people see him, like working out every week on his day off. I guess he feels if people think he has stayed so good for so long on natural talent alone, so be it.”
— Smith's longtime coach, Marv Levy
Everyone knows about the sacks, but Smith tallied nearly 1,100 tackles across 19 seasons, an illustration of his feared two-way ability.
Did you know?
At the time of his release by Buffalo in 1999 at the age of 36, Smith trailed Reggie White by 21½ sacks for the NFL record. He notched his final double-digit sack campaign in his first season with Washington, and added 19 more sacks over three successive seasons. He surpassed White for the record in 2003 by sacking Jesse Palmer.
It's also worth noting Smith terrorized quarterbacks largely from the right defensive end post in a 3-4 scheme, not from a 4-3 like White and many other great rushers of their era. Long before J.J. Watt, Smith began revolutionizing a position not previously known for producing elite pass rushers.
To be clear: There were more impressive statlines. But in Smith's first Super Bowl, XXV vs. the Giants, he blew by LT Jumbo Elliott and defeated the chip of RB Ottis Anderson to sack Jeff Hostetler in the endzone for a safety and 12-3 second-quarter Bills' lead.
Of course, that would devolve into a 20-19 defeat, the first of four consecutive Super Bowl heartbreaks in Buffalo, and Smith finished with only the one sack and three total tackles. But it serves as a reminder that Smith was a force from the moment he first stepped on the NFL's biggest stage, even if it was where Buffalo consistently came up short.
Previous "Team for the Ages" player announcements