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Four with ties to Bills among college HOF nominees

The list of those inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame is extensive enough to make one consider, half-kiddingly, whether most everyone who’s played the game has been granted admittance. Almost 1,000 players have received the honor. And more than 200 coaches.

But before accusing electors of rubbing stamping the masses consider that the numbers represent far, far less than 1 percent of the 5.06 million players from the sport’s 146-year collegiate history, and but a tiny segment of coaches. Making the final grade is so difficult that gaining a nomination is in itself a notable achievement.

Four individuals with ties to the Buffalo Bills are among the 162 players nominated on this year’s ballot re-released today by the NFFC – Marlin Briscoe, Tom Cousineau, Ruben Brown and Dick Jauron. Gerry Quinlivan, a UB linebacker in the early 1980s, also is up for consideration.

Briscoe made first-team NAIA All-American in 1967 at Nebraska-Omaha, where he set 22 schools records as a 5-foot-11, 178-pound quarterback. He joined the American Football League’s Denver Broncos at the position but lasted just one season after completing a scant 41.5 percent of his passes. The next year he ended up with the Bills, who converted him to receiver, and with glorious results.

Briscoe caught 133 passes for 2,171 yards and 18 touchdowns during three seasons in Buffalo. In 1970, the first season of the AFL-NFL merger, he snared 57 passes for 1,036 to place second in both categories (Chicago’s Joe Gordon led in receptions with 71; San Francisco’s Gene Washington led in yards with 1,100). Briscoe went on to play five more seasons (in Miami, Detroit, San Diego and New England) but never rivaled the successes he had with the Bills.

Cousineau, an Ohio State linebacker, dominated at the college level. Three times he was all-Big Ten and twice a first-team All-American. The Bills drafted him first overall in 1979, using the pick they acquired in trading O.J. Simpson to San Francisco. The sides never reached contract agreement. Cousineau opted for the Canadian Football League, played three seasons, then signed an offer sheet with the Houston Oilers. The Bills matched the offer then shipped Cousineau home to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 1983 first-round pick redeemed for Jim Kelly.

Brown was another first-round pick, selected 14th overall by the Bills in 1995. Those negotiations went smoothly. Brown became a fixture on the Bills offensive line from 1995 through 2003 and made the Pro Bowl in eight of those seasons – all but his rookie year. Brown played his college ball at Pitt, where he was three times all-Big East and a first-team All-American in 1994, the year he was honored by the Washington, D.C. Downtown Athletic Club as the nation’s outstanding lineman.

Jauron, a running back at Yale and NFL defensive back, coached the Bills to three straight 7-9 seasons beginning in 2006 and was fired in 2009 with a 3-6 record. At Yale, Jauron made first-team all-Ivy League on three occasions and received the conference’s Player of the Year award in 1972, the same season he made first-team All-American.

Quinlivan started all four of his seasons at UB, ranks among the all-time leaders in tackles and was selected first-team Division III All-American in 1984.

Some 12,000 ballots are cast by voters to provide direction to the NFCC Honors Court, which makes the final sections. A total of 75 players and six coaches have been nominated in the FBS category, 87 players and 25 coaches in the divisional category. The inductees will be announced Jan. 9.

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