Legendary wide receiver Andre Reed was a cornerstone of those Buffalo Bills teams that made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances from 1990 to 1993.
Reed’s ability to transform short-yardage reception gains into long ones and touchdowns set him apart from other wideouts during his time.
Who could ever forget his three second-half touchdown catches from backup quarterback Frank Reich in the Bills’ improbable comeback from a 32-point halftime deficit?
It’s no wonder Andre Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This man definitely set the bar high for wide receivers who want to make it big in the National Football League.
Andre Darnell Reed was born to parents Calvin and Joyce in Allentown, PA on January 29, 1964.
He has two brothers, Tyrone and Dion, and a sister, Teshia.
Calvin Reed worked in the construction industry. His son Andre remembered seeing his father’s clean hands before he went to work in the morning. When he got home, he recalled seeing how dirty they were.
“You could strike a match in the middle of his hand,” Andre Reed mentioned in his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech in 2014. “That’s how dirty they were.”
Calvin Reed always told his four children sayings revolving around various virtues such as patience and hard work. Andre said he couldn’t mention them all in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech because it would’ve taken all night.
The younger Reed remembered when his dad told him and his two brothers to run laps in the sweltering 95-degree heat in Allentown while all their friends swam in the community swimming pool.
They kept running until Calvin Reed told them to stop.
His mother Joyce was just as hard-working as her husband: she put in 12-hour days sewing at the local garment factory.
Andre Reed walked past that factory several times as a kid and told his mother she would never sew again when he grew up.
Calvin Reed also had a dark side: he was an alcoholic. His son Andre mentioned in his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, he said he “saw things growing up no child should see.”
When life at home became unbearable, Andre Reed made sports his refuge.
Reed played baseball, football, basketball, and other sports with his brothers and other kids at the Boys & Girls Club in Allentown, PA. He felt invincible whenever he played sports – he considered spending time at the club a crucial factor in his development as an athlete and as a person.
Reed grew up a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His favorite players were quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris, and wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.
Reed attended Louis E. Dieruff High School in Allentown.
What you want won’t always come easy, but if you work hard and don’t give up you will get there 🗣📚📈 #flashbackfriday #lildre #pafootball #dream #dreambig #motivation #striveforgreatness #read #readwithreed83 #read83 pic.twitter.com/SD06wLh2U8
— AndreReedFoundation (@AR83Foundation) May 15, 2020
He played quarterback for the Dieruff Huskies during his high school football days. Back in those days, he looked up to his brother Tyrone who was a top wide receiver for the Huskies.
Andre Reed credited his high school football experience for developing his running skills. He would evade the pass rush with his nimble and agile feet. His teammates used to call him “deer,” which is “Reed” spelled backwards.
Despite Reed’s impressive athleticism, he wasn’t a highly-touted recruit when he was about to enter the collegiate ranks.
He remained in-state at a little-known university where he would establish himself as a first-rate wide receiver.
College Days With The Kutztown Golden Bears
Andre Reed majored in general studies at Division II Kutztown University
He became a wide receiver when he joined the Kutztown Golden Bears in 1981.
Reed’s coach, Geno Calcagni, approached him during one of their two-a-day scrimmages and asked him to switch to wide receiver on a whim.
Calcagni thought Reed and All-American quarterback Greg Gristick would make a fantastic duo for the Golden Bears.
Switching to wide receiver was arguably the best career move Andre Reed ever made. He would make a name for himself making improbable catches from there on out.
When Reed was a true freshman in 1981, a Seattle Seahawks scout approached him on campus. He told Reed he and other scouts were there to size up one of their defensive backs.
The scout also told Reed the Seahawks were also taking a close look at him for the next three years.
Reed confessed in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech he was nervous when he spoke with the scout. However, he also told him he would make it to the National Football League some day.
Three years later, Reed finished his four-year stint with the Golden Bears with 2,020 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 142 receptions.
He set nine school records with the Golden Bears from 1981 to 1984.
Andre Reed not only made good on his promise he would make it to the NFL, but he would also become one of the best wide receivers in pro football history.
Pro Football Career
The Buffalo Bills selected Andre Reed 86th overall in the 1985 NFL Draft.
Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. told The Buffalo News sixteen years later it was perhaps “the best deal” the franchise ever got.
With the 86th pick of the 1985 draft, the Buffalo Bills select: Andre Reed, WR, Kutztown University. pic.twitter.com/Br5wLYVxUD
— Brett Santos (@BrettSant05) April 29, 2021
Reed had no idea where Buffalo was. All the while, he thought it was in New York City. He was off by 400 miles West.
On the way to his first-mini camp in 1985, Reed met fellow rookie Bruce Smith, the first overall draft choice that year.
Reed remembered Smith wearing sunglasses inside the plane which made his 6’4, 265-lb. frame look more intimidating.
Reed introduced himself as the Bills’ fourth-round draft choice. Smith knew who he was.
Reed then asked Smith if they were going to the hotel. Smith replied in the negative. He accompanied his teammate to the Big Tree Inn, a famous tavern in Buffalo.
Reed met Bills linebacker Darryl Talley at the Big Tree Inn. One of the first things Talley told him was that he felt really good about the 1985 Bills squad – it had all the right pieces and the potential to become long-term postseason contenders.
Talley’s premonition would come true several years later. With Andre Reed on board, they took baby steps in the right direction.
The Bills coaches encouraged Reed to let Pro Bowl wide receiver Jerry Butler take him under his wing. Butler told Reed if he plays the game the right way, he’ll be in the league for a long time. Reed took those words to heart: he played sixteen seasons in the National Football League.
This trading card culture is 🔥! Which one do you have? The Jerry curl is money 💸💸🤣. My diamonds be VVs!!!
Who would of thought as a kid this could happen. Dream big young people. Practice your autograph. Put in work. #fyu #flashbackfriday #billsmafia #buffalobills #nfl pic.twitter.com/h08vxwZfya
— Andre Reed (@Andre_Reed83) April 17, 2021
Three years after the Bills drafted him, Reed’s NFL career took off.
He earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl berths from 1988 to 1994. He had three 1,000-plus-yard seasons and became a two-time Second-Team All-Pro selection during that stretch.
Buffalo averaged eleven wins per season and made their incredible Super Bowl run from 1990 to 1993.
The Bills made the Super Bowl for four straight years but failed to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
One historical prelude to Buffalo’s third consecutive Super Bowl appearance in the 1992 NFL season was an improbable comeback victory against the then-Houston Oilers (now known as the Tennessee Titans) in the AFC Wild Card Game.
The Oilers led 35-3 at the half behind quarterback Warren Moon’s four touchdown passes. The Bills’ Super Bowl aspirations were in serious jeopardy.
Fortunately, Andre Reed rose to the occasion.
He caught three touchdown passes from backup quarterback Frank Reich (currently the Indianapolis Colts head coach) in the second half. The Bills won in stunning fashion, 41-38.
It was the largest comeback in league history. Andre Reed was at the center of it all.
Reich explained to The Baltimore Sun (via The Undefeated’s Rhiannon Walker) that Reed hadn’t caught too many passes lately so he figured the Oilers would sag off on him on defense.
It was a logical thought that paid off and propelled Buffalo to another postseason win.
For his part, Reed considered it his most satisfying moment in his legendary NFL career.
On This Day In #Buffalo Sport History: Dec. 3, 1992
“The Comeback Game” as the Bills storm back from down 35-3 against the Oilers in the Wild Card to win 41-38 in overtime.
Andre Reed had 8 catches for 136 yards & 3 scores to help the #Bills pull off the greatest comeback ever. pic.twitter.com/MJaigL4AI2
— MereBSBuffalo (@MereBSBuffalo) January 3, 2021
Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson interrupted Reed during a postgame press conference and told him, “You’re the best.”
One Andre Reed play in 1994 stood out the most for Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.
Kelly told The Buffalo News in 2001 Reed somehow caught a pass he threw under duress during a game against the Miami Dolphins in 1994.
It was an all-out blitz that Kelly somehow managed to evade. He threw a short pass to Reed who wound up with an 83-yard touchdown reception.
A serious hamstring injury limited Reed to just six games and 312 receiving yards in the 1995 NFL season.
However, he bounced back with 1,036 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 66 receptions a year later.
Reed’s father Calvin passed away in 1996. Bills head coach Marv Levy became more of a father figure to Reed when he told him to take as much time off as he needed.
Those were words Andre Reed remembered Marv Levy for the rest of his life. Levy’s compassion came through at a time when Reed needed solace and comfort.
When Reed concluded his 15th NFL season with the Bills in 1999, he wrote on AthleteDirect.com (via TheAthletic.com) people thought he retired after Buffalo’s last game that year.
However, that wasn’t the case. He felt unappreciated at that point in his career and wanted to go to a team that did.
Reed also confessed he wasn’t on speaking terms with quarterback Doug Flutie during his fallout in Buffalo.
On the other hand, Bills offensive coordinator Joe Pendry frequently resorted to a three-receiver set consisting of Eric Moulds, Peerless Price, and Kevin Williams as the 1999 NFL season wore on.
Consequently, Reed saw his production dwindle to 536 receiving yards – the least he had ever since his injury-riddled 1995 NFL season. Reed’s lone touchdown in 1999 was also the least he ever had in his legendary NFL career.
Reed eventually signed a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos, a team that won consecutive Super Bowls just two seasons earlier.
Unfortunately, Reed was buried deep in Denver’s wide receiver depth chart. After Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan informed Reed he would be inactive for the season opener, he requested his release.
Reed signed with the then-Washington Redskins where he had just 103 receiving yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions.
He retired from the NFL after his one-year tenure in the nation’s capital.
Reed signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Bills to retire as a member of the organization on September 9, 2001.
On that day, Reed poured out his sentiments on his incredible 15-year career with the Bills.
1991: #Bills beat #Chiefs 37-14 in AFC Divisional Game en route to a second straight Super Bowl appearance. Jim Kelly throws three TD passes, two to Andre Reed, while Thurman Thomas runs for an even 100 yards. pic.twitter.com/bk8jXTvZo6
— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) January 22, 2022
While the Buffalo Bills never won a Super Bowl title during their incredible four-year run, Reed told The Buffalo News‘ Mark Gaughan he has no regrets a decade later:
“Yeah, we didn’t win any Super Bowls. But you know what? That was the ride of my life. You couldn’t get me off that ride. There will never be an assembly of players like that here again. Never. It will never be duplicated. I don’t know if it will be ever be duplicated in the NFL again.”
Reed also considered those Bills teams unstoppable. He felt those squads had the best offense and personnel.
He even compared the Bills teams he played on to a machine that took no prisoners every time they took the field.
Kelly told The Buffalo News it’s impossible to recall all of the 663 passes he threw Reed’s way. All that mattered was Reed getting in position to make the catch. Once he did, he burned the opposition:
“The thing about Andre was when he was inside, it didn’t matter if it was an eight-yard pass or a 12-yard pass; it was his effectiveness running after the catch. He was so good inside nobody could every bump him; nobody could ever touch him.”
Reed returned the compliment in his Pro Football Fame enshrinement speech in 2014. He considered Kelly the toughest person he ever met:
“The toughest individual I ever met in my life is Jim Kelly, No. 12…You’re the reason why I’m standing here today. Your belief in me that I could get the job done at any time will resonate with me the rest of my life…You taught us not to quit.”
Hall of Fame Bills running back Thurman Thomas also praised Reed for his work ethic. He considered Reed “one of the hardest workers” he had ever seen on the football field, per The Buffalo News.
Reed finished his legendary 16-year NFL career with 13,198 receiving yards and 87 touchdowns on 951 receptions.
He also had 1,229 yards on 85 receptions and five games with at least 100 receiving yards in the postseason.
Andre reed edit #buffalobills pic.twitter.com/z8ukxp3Txs
— Russell adler (@RussellAdler48) January 8, 2022
According to The Buffalo News, Reed was proud of his durability: not counting his 1995 NFL season, he missed just six games due to injury during his 15-year tenure in Western New York.
Reed’s durability allowed him to break several records.
He had thirteen seasons with at least 50 receptions. Only the great Jerry Rice had more by the time Reed hung up his cleats in 2001.
Reed’s 941 career receptions, 13,095 career receiving yards, thirty-six games with at least 100 receiving yards, and 15 receptions in a single game are all Buffalo Bills franchise records.
Reed’s 27 receptions are the second-most in Super Bowl history. His 323 receiving yards are third-most in Super Bowl history behind Jerry Rice (604 receiving yards) and his childhood idol Lynn Swann (364 receiving yards).
Andre Reed and his wife Cindy have a son Andre, Jr. and a daughter, Auburn.
Reed finished his degree in general studies at Kutztown University in 2005.
“My dreams were to get this degree,” Reed said in his commencement ceremony speech. “All those dreams are realized today. To the graduates, I want to say one thing: you should always remember to finish what you started.”
He became a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame in 2006.
Reed launched his Andre Reed Foundation in 2010. It aims to assist underprivileged kids to reach their full potential and become responsible members of their community.
The foundation has supported local charities such as The Boys & Girls Club of Allentown, Communities in Schools, Easter Seals, and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley over the years.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined Andre Reed on August 2, 2014.
In his enshrinement speech, Reed mentioned he admired fellow wide receivers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin during his 16-year NFL career.
Reed received the President’s Medal from his alma mater Kutztown University two months after his induction in Canton in 2014.
Louis E. Dierfuff High School management named its field at J. Birney Crum in Reed’s honor in August 2015. Reed graduated as a member of the school’s 1981 graduating class.
The school also named one of its adjacent streets “Andre Reed Way” and a nearby park “Andre Reed Park.”
Reed made frequent appearances at his high school in the months leading up to his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dieruff athletic director Mel Riddick told The Morning Call that Reed frequently visited the school talking to kids without any publicity. He and his mother even called Riddick and offered something the athletic director chose not to divulge.
Reed gave the Allentown Boys and Girls Club a check worth $25,000 in the summer of 2015.
Reed held his annual Andre Reed Celebrity Golf Tournament on August 30, 2021. It was the 11th time Reed held a golf tournament that benefited his Andre Reed Foundation. Organizers canceled the event in 2020 because of the coronavirus.
Celebrity athletes who attended in 2021 event included John Starks, Bo Kimble, Mike Mamula, Mark McMillan, Lito Shepherd, Seth Joyner, Brian Schneider, Dave Schneider, Tommy Greene, and Mickey Morandini.
Andre Reed occasionally works as a sports analyst for ESPN and FOX Sports.
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