I spent 26 years in the Army and believe that leadership is what sets extraordinary organizations apart from the mere ordinary. Regardless if it’s a business, government, a church choir or an NFL football team, leaders are the ones who determine if they will indeed be great. For any group to excel, it needs some people dedicated to the mission, their co-workers, soldiers or teammates all over their own self-interest. That describes OLB Darryl Talley. The Bills were able to suffer defeat in the biggest of games and then pick themselves up and try and do it all over again. It’s been over 20 years since the Bills made their first Super Bowl appearance. History is starting to be kind to a team that while never winning it all, certainly can be categorized as one of the NFL’s great dynasties. Nobody was more important to the success of that great Buffalo Bills team than Darryl Talley.
Talley’s on the field accomplishments should be enough to warrant serious consideration. First and foremost he is Buffalo’s all-time leading tackler. He recorded 38.5 sacks had 12 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries and scored three touchdowns. Darryl played in 188 regular season games and that ranks fifth-most in team history, and in 12 seasons as a Buffalo Bill he never missed a game. He went to the Pro-Bowl twice and is on the Bills Wall of Fame.
Yet, that’s not all that sets him apart. Watch this video. You will notice that both Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas’ in their own Hall of Fame induction speeches mentioned their teammate by name. Both describing what he meant to the team and that Talley indeed should have a bust in Canton alongside theirs. Talley was the emotional leader of a team that went to four straight Super Bowls. During the improbable comeback game against the Oilers it was Talley imploring his teammates while the game was still in doubt that, “This is a team damnit!” He played hard, he played fair and he was tough as nails. He sacrificed the spotlight for bigger names like Smith, Kelly, Thomas, Bennett, Reed, yet nobody stood taller inside the locker room and inside the huddle.
Plus Talley was and is a class act. Back in 2008 Darryl took a moment at a Charity golf tournament to talk about the storied Super Bowl teams and then said this:
"One thing I wish people would take a look at is out of all the things that we accomplished we wouldn't have done a lot of them without Scott Norwood," said Talley. "Everybody seems to have forgotten Scott. If you look back in the early days we won a lot of games with special teams and him kicking field goals. So I think there's somewhere up there (the Wall) for Scott to be, but nobody wants to acknowledge him because he missed a kick. But as I recall, I missed some tackles in that game, Bruce missed some. Thurman dropped some balls and Jim threw interceptions, but nobody realizes that here is a guy that made major contributions to what this organization was about. It just irks me that people have forgotten him.”
I don’t know about you but I’d like to have Darryl Talley in my corner.
I remember Talley leaving Buffalo like it was yesterday. After the ’94 campaign the Bills decided to move in a different direction and elected not to resign Talley. After all that he had done, and all that he meant to the organization, Talley could have been bitter that the team who he had played so well for was letting him go. Instead, Talley the pro through and through handled it with dignity and class (not often seen by today’s pro athletes). Darryl elected to take out an ad in the Buffalo News and tell the paper’s half-million or so readers that he thought it had been a privilege to live in the city and play on four Super Bowl teams. He asked the rhetorical question, “Where will we (he and his family) ever find neighbors like this again?" Regarding the team that just let him become a free agent Talley said, "To the Buffalo Bills organization and to my teammates, what can I say? You were simply the best. On behalf of my family, thanks for the memories. It was my honor."
I have said in my book and on this website that Kent Hull is my favorite player and that is indeed true. Darryl Talley? He is the one player who I believe is the most under-appreciated in Buffalo history. Do I think Tasker and Reed should be in the Hall? You bet I do. Should Smerlas and Hull get serious consideration? I have said it before and I’ll say it again – They certainly should. However, the one I would sign a petition for and write a letter on his behalf is not Tasker, Reed or Hull…it’s Darryl Talley. Leadership is what elevates people and organizations to greatness. Talley was a leader of a team that did great things. The Hall of Fame should recognize that.