With the NFL lockout now past the 100-day mark and the Buffalo Bills' players unable to come to work, the team unveiled their newest uniforms - uniforms that pay homage to the franchise's heroes of the past - with the help of some of the country's heroes of the present.
Donned in the royal blue jersey and the white helmet - like those in the days of Jack Kemp - and the charging buffalo -like those from the Jim Kelly era - six U.S. servicemen stood on stage on Friday evening in the end zone at Ralph Wilson Stadium in front of a crowd of about 4,000.
"The blue reminds me of back when we played," Jim Kelly said in an interview that was posted on the Bills' website. "And you can't really argue with the (color of the jerseys), especially with the success we had back in the late 80s and early 90s.
Maple Grove High School graduate Alex Smith, kneeling left, and Westfield graduate Kevin Reynolds, kneeling right, are joined by, among others, former Buffalo Bills Steve Tasker (89) and Jim Kelly (back row far right) at an unveiling of the team’s new uniforms on Friday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
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"It brings back great memories."
For a team that, as head coach Chan Gailey has said, prides itself on character, toughness and a strong work ethic, having local servicemen be the first to wear the uniforms while also standing alongside such Bills' greats as Kelly, Steve Tasker, Charley Ferguson, Booker Edgerson and Thurman Thomas, was a powerful message about the franchise's intended direction.
And the roar signaled that the crowd was impressed with both the new uniforms and the men who wore them.
Among those servicemen, two are from Chautauqua County: Alex Smith, a 2008 graduate of Maple Grove High School, and Kevin Reynolds, a graduate of the Westfield Academy and Central School.
Smith, who like Reynolds played football in high school, is currently a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps. In addition, Smith's father, Jeffrey, is a Major in the Marines, as are his two brothers - both Lance Corporals as well - Cole and Garret.
Reynolds, meanwhile, is a Sergeant in the National Guard. After having served for 10 years as a Marine Corps prison guard in both Okinawa, Japan and Camp Lejeune, N.C., Reynolds joined the National Guard in 2003 and deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2005. There he was a military police chief and was responsible for the capture of three of Iraq's most-wanted insurgents. Among the honors he earned during his service are the Combat Action Badge, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal and the Global War on Terror Service Medal.
The four other servicemen came were National Guard Staff Sergeant Greg Price, from Amherst, Army Specialist Nick Stone, from Hamburg, Army Reserve Sergeant Anthony Kuhn, from North Tonawanda, and Marine Staff Sergeant James McClendon, a recruiter in Buffalo.
Russ Brandon, the Bills' chief executive officer, noted on the team website that the former players had a major role in getting the servicemen to take part in the ceremony.
"The (alumni's) top cause is the Wounded Warrior Program and we're tied in with that as well, so I think it was great treat for not only the military but also our great fans."
The Bills are the only team in the NFL to change their uniforms for the upcoming season. This is the team's sixth helmet change, 15th new look and the first major alteration since Drew Bledsoe signed in 2002.