PHOENIX – Former Buffalo Bills General Manager Bill Polian has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
Polian was among eight of 18 finalists elected during a vote Saturday by the 46-member Hall selection committee. He and another former GM, Ron Wolf, were the first inductees from the newly created contributors category.
The players elected were Junior Seau, Jerome Bettis, Charles Haley, Will Shields, Tim Brown and senior nominee Mick Tingelhoff.
“It’s really overwhelming,” Polian said Saturday night. “Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would be here.
“These guys here,” pointing to the other inductees, “are so far beyond my pay grade, it isn’t even close.
“But this is about, for me, the players and coaches that I’ve been so fortunate to be with over the years. And the biggest thrill tonight is to be able to share it, obviously with my family, but to have Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning here, too, because they’re the reason I’m here.”
Polian, 72, becomes the 11th former member of the Bills organization to join the Hall and second in as many years. Andre Reed was selected in 2014.
Polian and the other members of the Class of 2015 will be enshrined in Canton on Aug. 8. Polian has selected fellow inductee Marv Levy as his presenter.
“Without him, I’m not in professional football,” he said. “Everything that’s come to me in this business is because of him. Everything I know about pro football I’ve learned from him and most of the things I know about life I’ve learned from him.”
In 1984, Polian joined the Bills as their pro personnel director and became their GM after their second consecutive 2-14 finish in 1985. Three seasons later, he had them in the AFC Championship Game.
During Polian’s time as general manager, 1986-1992, the Bills went to three consecutive Super Bowls and he was largely responsible for putting together the team that made it there for a fourth straight year, all of those teams coached by Levy.
From 1988 to ’92, the Bills had a win percentage of .710, including playoffs, which was the best in the AFC and second only to the San Francisco 49ers in that span.
After his remarkable rebuilding job in Buffalo – which resulted in his being placed on the Bills’ Wall of Fame in 2012 – Polian went on to quickly build a contender from scratch as GM of the Carolina Panthers from 1994 to 1997.
The Panthers reached the NFC title game in their second season.
Polian returned to his building role as GM and then president and vice chairman of the Indianapolis Colts, who gave up a third-round draft pick to Carolina to acquire him after they finished 3-13 in ’97. He made Peyton Manning the top overall pick of the 1998 draft and the Colts went on to three AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLI.
During Polian’s 14 seasons with the Colts, 1998 to 2011, they had the second-best win percentage in the regular season at .638 (trailing only the Patriots at .696). They advanced to the postseason 11 times during a 12-season span, winning 10 games in each playoff year.
Polian, the only six-time NFL Executive of the Year as selected by his peers, helped construct teams that made 17 playoff appearances, eight conference championship games and five Super Bowl appearances.