The 1973 Buffalo Bills Roster Included Many More Players Than Just O.J. Simpson
A football team is a lot more than just its star player. While stars like Tom Brady and Cam Newton are household names, the teams that make those players look so great often consist of 53 people. O.J. Simpson played with the Buffalo Bills from 1969 to 1977, but his standout year was undeniably 1973 when Simpson was voted the NFL MVP and became the first running back to run 2,000 rushing yards in a season. Simpson's football prowess is what introduced him to America and started his rise to fame as chronicled in the docuseries O.J.: Made In America. His time with the Buffalo Bills makes up some of Simpson's essential formative years, but who was he surrounded by? Who else was on the 1973 Buffalo Bills?
Football rosters change frequently each season, but in 1973 the Buffalo Bills had something of a magic team on their hands beneath the star-power of Simpson. These players managed to give the Buffalo Bills a winning record of 9 - 5, which is rather exceptional considering that their record two years prior was 1 - 13. Here are all the players you need to know from the 1973 Buffalo Bills, as listed by Pro Football Reference, and how they came together.
1973 was a transitional year for quarterbacks with the Buffalo Bills as Dennis Shaw, who had been with the team since 1970, was working with up-and-coming rookie Joe Ferguson. Shaw would be traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after the '73 season and Ferguson continued to serve as quarterback for the Bills until 1984. Ferguson's youthful rookie energy was clearly an asset to the team and helped the Buffalo Bills turn their luck around.
Simpson was the standout running back in the 1973 season, but he wasn't the only one, working closely with fellow running backs Pete Van Valkenberg, Larry Watkins, Steve Jones, and Jim Braxton.
The defensive linemen team featured college football superstar Walt Patulski. When he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1972, he was the number one overall pick for that year. His inclusion on the team, as well as fellow defensive linemen Mike Kadish, Bob Kampa, Jerry Patton, Earl Edwards, and Steve Okoniewski, surely played a big role in the Buffalo Bills' success.
The Buffalo Bills linebackers lineup for the 1973 season consisted of Bo Cornell, Jim Cheyunski, Merv Krakau, Phil Croyle, Rick Kingrea, John Skorupan, Rich Lewis, Dale Farley, Fred Forsberg, Brian McConnel, and Dave Washington.
The defensive backs for the 1973 season were Robert James, Bill Cahill, Ernie Kellermann, Donnie Walker, Tony Greene, Leon Garror, John Pitts, Ken Stone, and Dwight Harrison.
The offensive line of the 1973 Buffalo Bills was often referred to as the "Electric Company" because they "turn loose The Juice." Among the linemen was NFL Hall of Fame member Joe DeLamielleure, as well as Bruce Jarvis, Willie Parker, Mike Montler, Reggie McKenzie, Bob Penchion, Halvor Hagen, Jeff Winans, Donnie Green, and Dave Foley.
Longtime Buffalo Bills wide receiver Bob Chandler, who would later go on to host the television series Amazing Games, helped bring the Bills to victory along with his fellow wide receivers J.D. Hill, Wallace Francis, and Ray Jarvis. Jarvis was only with the Bills for one season before going to the Detroit Lions.
Paul Seymour and Ted Koy pulled double duty as tight ends, offering support to both the offensive linemen and the wide receivers.
The 1973 Buffalo Bills consisted of a great deal of players, but one name rose above all others. Simpson was undeniably the star of the season, but each and every person on the Buffalo Bills helped him achieve the celebrity status that he maintained until the trial of the century.
Images: M. Osterreicher/Courtesy of ESPN Films; Giphy (2)