Sunday, June 12, 2016
O.J. Simpson-Insights from a Teammates Prospective
By Dave Washington, Jr., Sports Editor
Jackson, MS – The Buffalo Bills had finished the 1971 season with a dismal record of 1-13 and I had just been traded from the Denver Broncos for what was then termed the trade of the year. A linebacker for linebacker swap, where the Buffalo Bills felt they had gotten a real steal. As the deal turned out I was later voted All-Pro by the Associated Press International (API) and United Press International (UPI) that year. However, I was snubbed for Rookie of the Year honors by the Broncos. That title went to Colorado’s favorite son of the times Bobby Anderson the Broncos first round draft choice the previous year as I was tagged by the Broncos in the ninth round by head coach Lou Saban. Although Anderson started a hand full of games and managed 83 carries and 368 yards with four touchdowns that year the rookie of the year honor was bestowed on him. Then on the other hand as a starter of every regular season game as a rookie with at least two players of the week runner-up accolades along the way the Rookie of the year title slipped past me. I might add I had a sack for a safety against the Pittsburg Steelers rookie quarterback and future NFL Hall of Fame, four times Super Bowl Champion Terry Bradshaw. Now, with that segway, I arrived in Buffalo with the same expectation I had going to Denver as a rookie two years prior. I came to start at outside linebacker and make the Buffalo Bills a better team and contend for a Super Bowl.
Everyone had heard of the phenomenal University Southern California (USC) running back Orenthal James Simpson, (OJ) even in Mississippi, where I played my college ball, at Alcorn State University. Coach Lou Saban orchestrated the trade that brought me to Buffalo, the first in his new role as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. He inherited a team that lacked offensive linemen and a quarterback to get the maximum mileage out of their Heisman Trophy first round pick, running back OJ Simpson. Also, lacking was a defense to take the ball away from opposing teams so the “Juice” could be turned loose. Saban started the repair process by drafting Reggie McKenzie from Michigan who later became a member of OJ’s innermost circle which had only one member before Reggie and that was Al Cowlings (a.k.a. AC). AC was OJ’s Main Man all the way from their boyhood days back in San Francisco at Galileo High School and from there to San Francisco City College, then on to USC). AC was a first round fifth pick in the 1970 NFL Draft by the Bills. Saban also brought in Dave Foley that year in a trade from the New York Jets. The craftiness of Saban was evident as I came to the Bills with Saban from Denver as a Tight End (TE)/Linebacker (LB) thereby my number assignment of #86, as I was to see double duty as a TE and LB. However, that double duty assignment was short lived as pre-season injuries decimated the linebacker core. On opening day, I found myself again in the starting position facing the New York Jets and newly acquired friend Joe Namath. The season ended with me learning the Buffalo Bills system, starting every game during the regular season and getting to know Orenthal James Simpson, (a.k.a. The Juice/OJ). On a side note according to online stats, I finished the year with one (1) interception, two and one half (2.5) sacks and one (1) pass reception not bad for a ninth (9th) round draft choice from Alcorn State University (HBCU).
OJ’s circle expanded as Saban continued to add quality players to the team. I never considered myself by any means a part of any of the rings of the circle except the ring as a teammate on the Bills roster. The circles could have been broken down like this; there was the Team Circle, we were as close as teams go, we had our usual Monday nights outings with Monday night football at the local watering hole, sometimes it was former Bills team members Bar “Sestak and Maguire’s” or the World’s famous “Anchor Bar” home of the original Buffalo Wings. Then there was the Offensive Team Circle, where the offensive team members gathered wherever they gathered and we had our Defensive Circle that eventually started gathering at my house on Thursday’s. These gatherings began to evolve into our Thursday night Bible studies and the wives got involved and the word got out and some of the offensive guys started to come and take part. Then there was the Electric Company Circle, which was the starting offensive team that got the name because they “turned on the Juice”. This circle consisted of Mike Montler, (C/G), Bruce Jarvis (C), Joe DeLamielleure (G), Reggie McKenzie (G), Donnie Green (T), Dave Foley (T), Paul Seymore (TE), J.D. Hill (WR), Ahmad Rashad (WR), Bobby Chandler (WR), Joe Furgerson (QB), Jim Braxton (FB), Larry Watkins (FB) and OJ. There were a few of these guys that did not sell out totally to the antics of the Electric Company which were at times scrutinized by management and BNYPD. But that was back in the day when players could actually trust the press not to print certain things that go “bump in the night”. Then there was OJ’s, Fav five (5) Circle, AC, JD, Ahmad, Reggie and Donnie Green. The inner workings of Buffalo after dark were the calling card for the Fav Five (5) and nobody knew but the Fav Five (5). The Three (3) Amigos Circle, AC, JD, Reggie went where no other teammates dared go and discussed things no one else discussed. The Two (2) of a Kind Circle, if OJ rolled anywhere in Buffalo his two main partners rolled with him AC and Reggie. After that you know who was left, The Just Me and You Circle, OJ’s wheel man his life long friend AC.
The Thursday night Bible Study was a hit with Marguerite Whitley Simpson. Marguerite was OJ’s first wife, who drove from Cheektowaga to Hamburg (our home); Hamburg is adjacent to Orchard Park, NY, (the Bills training camp) a good 15-20 miles in the snow, often times alone and never with OJ to fellowship and grow spiritually. Robert James (DB) and I served as co-Chaplin of the team. Robert’s wife Barbara and my wife Dianne were instrumental in assisting with growing the study and ministering to the couples.
This is the first part of a five (5) part series by Dave Washington, Jr., “Insights into the OJ Saga – A Teammates Prospective”. Next – “OJ Friend or Foe?”
Dave Washington, Jr., played linebacker in the NFL for 11 years. He is also Sports Columnist for local Mississippi weekly Newspapers, contributing writer for National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), sportsblog.com and columnist for several on-line News/Sports media and Editor Proplayercompanies.com/media. www.davewashington.com.