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Mutual affinity between O.J. Simpson and LeSean McCoy inspired interview

LAS VEGAS – The challenge was issued in December.

Four days removed from plowing the Buffalo Bills to victory through ungodly heavy snow, LeSean McCoy was interviewed about what it takes to run in those elements.

Few excel in such treacherous conditions like McCoy has. Another with such a knack was Bills Wall of Fame tailback O.J. Simpson.

"Well, what did O.J. say?" McCoy asked a reporter.

McCoy was told Simpson doesn't do interviews.

"Why not?" McCoy said without a hint of sarcasm.

Because of the 1995 double-murder trial and the fact Simpson had been released from a Nevada prison for kidnapping and armed robbery just two months earlier, McCoy was told.

"Yeah, so?" he persisted.

The O.J. Simpson interview: On prison, 'retirement' and football

McCoy a few days later at New Era Field playfully reiterated the challenge to interview Simpson. McCoy is a gargantuan fan of Simpson's highlight reels with Buffalo.

That's when The Buffalo News started to pursue an interview with Simpson, a process met by dozens of unreturned phone calls and emails until a February breakthrough.

Yes, Simpson was willing to speak with a reporter from Buffalo. The chance to express his McCoy fanhood was a factor.

"I love his running style," Simpson said Monday in Las Vegas, where he lives while on parole. "I love that he's competitive. He's unusual. He's electric.

"He's got that shake and stuff that I saw Barry Sanders have in abundance. Mercury Morris had that wiggle that could get you to jump up out of your seat. I'm a running back. There's few running backs that can get me to jump up."

When the Bills met the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs, Simpson sported his No. 25 McCoy jersey at a Bills Backers bar in Las Vegas.

Simpson rushed for 10,183 yards and 57 touchdowns over nine 14-game seasons in Buffalo. Two drab years with the San Francisco 49ers ended his career. When Simpson retired in 1979, he was second to Jim Brown on the all-time rushing list.

McCoy has rushed for 3,300 yards and 22 touchdowns since the Philadelphia Eagles traded him to Buffalo three years ago.

When he became the 30th player to rush for 10,000 yards last year, he got there on fewer carries than all but Brown, Adrian Peterson, Sanders and Simpson.

"I can watch Eric Dickerson run by guys back in the day or Adrian Peterson sometimes run over guys," Simpson continued in praise of McCoy. "But rarely do you have a running back just shake guys. I say, 'Damn, I wish I could do that.' This guy does it three or four times a game.

"I love that runner that can score from anywhere on the field and doesn't need perfect blocking. This guy creates."

Even in eight inches of snow.

McCoy capped the Dec. 10 Snowvertime win over the Indianapolis Colts with a 21-yard sudden-death touchdown. He ran a career-high 32 times for 156 yards.

Had Simpson been reachable in December, how would he have explained his snowshoe acumen despite playing high school, junior college and university ball for California schools?

"I grew up in Northern California, long before AstroTurf," Simpson said. "So practice and playing was in the mud all the time. Mud is way harder to run in than snow. Trust me.

"I remember playing against Cincinnati where the snow was so high you couldn't run. But basically running on the muddy fields all the time because you had nowhere else to practice, it taught you how to run flat-footed."

Bills left guard Joe DeLamielleure said exactly that in the December story. DeLamielleure in 1973 was a rookie on the famed Electric Company offensive line that helped Simpson rush for 2,003 yards.

"I would call it being a duck," Simpson said, "trying to get as much base with your feet as you can, and you can't be low-driving. You hunch at the upper body, but remain high with your lower body so you don't slip."

Simpson ran 22 times for 219 yards and a TD against the New England Patriots in what was considered the deepest snow for a Bills game until December.

A week later, Simpson ran 34 times for 200 yards and a TD on Shea Stadium's crunchy, icy field to break Brown's season rushing record and push him over 2,000 yards.

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