By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Every successful team has a leader to depend on, to look to when times are tough and when things aren't going well, or to stay grounded when things are going almost too smoothly. It's a tough and thankless job, but consider this: who does the leader look to when he or she needs a pat on the back or sharp word to get them back on track?
Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly never looked past big #67, center Kent Hull, who sadly is gone way before his time at way too early an age. Hull was a 3-time Pro Bowl player for the Bills in his 10 seasons here, but he was a lot more than a successful football player.
Here's one interesting factoid that lets you know how highly Kelly regarded one of his closest friends both on and off the field. One of Jim's cell phone numbers (since changed) had the following four digits; 1267. The 12, obviously JK, and you don't even need to guess to know why the 67 was a part of it.
Kelly told me several times over the years that Hull was his "rock". After a tough hit in a game, when Jim might stumble back to the huddle a little woozy, it would be Hull who would tell the team, including Jim, what play to run. Hull knew virtually all the line positions and also knew what to run or not run with the complex K-Gun no huddle attack. The team, especially Kelly, totally respected Hull as it's leader, and Hull always wore the responsibility with pride and humility.
Hull could get in your face too, and that included his star quarterback, who sometimes needed reminding about fundamentals or attitude, and Kelly heeded his words. Always. Kent was also the guy that helped calm Jim down after an interception or mistake, and got him refocused on the task as hand. It's my fervent hope that Hull will some day join his other Super Bowl teammates in Canton in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was that good.
Kent Hull was also one of the most down to earth people I've ever known. He was a big ol' farm boy from Mississippi with an endearing southern drawl and always upbeat attitude. Kent also had a wonderful, low key sense of humor.
When Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi a few years ago, Kent told me a couple years ago at a function in Niagara Falls that the heavy winds blew down a lot of the fencing that kept several hundred head of beef cattle on his property. We used to enjoy talking about Herefords and Black Angus, because I grew up around cattle as a young guy out in Oregon. Kent said that eventually they rounded up all their cattle - it took several days - and repaired the fencing. Then they counted the herd, and guess what? "We had about 50 head more than we had when the storm hit", drawled Hull, "I thought I was going to be arrested for cattle rustling' ".
I also remember many years ago when the Bills soundly beat the Atlanta Falcons in a game at then Rich Stadium, and Deion Sanders picked Kelly and ran it back for a touchdown, doing his now famous dance with one hand behind his helmet. After the game, Kent put his arm around Sanders, and didn't say a word. He just pointed to the scoreboard.
We're sad that he is gone too soon, but happy to remember what he meant to anybody who knew him; a LOT.