Sometimes it's important for a player to come in and not just perform on the field, but change the culture of the team. Fred Smerlas did that once upon a time with the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills were not a good team in 1978. They were 5-11 under Chuck Knox, then in his first year in Buffalo. Knox knew he needed more talent on the roster. The team's first pick in 1979, Tom Cousineau, fled to the Canadian Football League, but Knox did well with Smerlas of Boston College as the fourth pick in the second round. Later in that round, Buffalo grabbed Jim Haslett.
Not only were Smerlas and Haslett young and good, but they were personable and funny. The media flocked to them. Buffalo's team had a personality makeover in no time.
Smerlas moved into the starting lineup in 1980 and didn't miss a start for the Bills for the rest of the decade. Buffalo had some good seasons and bad ones during that time, but Smerlas was a constant. He made five Pro Bowls along the way.
The run ended in 1990, when Smerlas moved to San Francisco. Then it was on to New England for two more seasons. He only made one start when he wasn't in a Buffalo uniform.
Smerlas stayed in the Boston area after retirement, and has considered a run for Congress a couple of times in the past decade.
-- Budd Bailey
Sports Ink blog at buffalonews.com/blogs