Today is June 14, 2019, which means we are officially 78 days away from the Virginia Tech Hokies opening the college football season at Boston College. Yesterday, we profiled an offensive lineman from the World War II era in Roger McClure. Today, we profile the greatest player in school history: Number 78, Bruce Smith.
When we discuss the greatest Hokie, the names of Carroll Dale, Bruce Smith, Frank Beamer and Bruce Smith are the names most frequently discussed. And Beamer’s status was not because of his playing career, but his legendary status as head coach. As a player, no one was better than Smith.
Smith was an all-state star at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk before arriving in Blacksburg in 1981.
During his career in Blacksburg, Smith terrorized quarterbacks. Unofficially, he finished his career with the Hokies with 46 sacks. It is unofficial because the NCAA didn’t start tracking sacks as an official stat until much later. During his junior season of 1983, Smith finished with 22 sacks. For his career, Smith finished with 71 tackles for loss, for a combined 504 total loss of yards. Insane numbers.
At 6’4”, 290, pounds, Smith could run a 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds. While that may be a bit more normal now, it was unheard of in 1985. When Smith left Blacksburg, he would leave as the most decorated player in school history and that still stands today. A two-time first-team All-American in 1983 and 1984, Smith also won the Outland Trophy in 1984 and was an easy selection into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
The first overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, Smith would continue his legendary career. He was a four-time AFC defensive player of the year, a two-time NFL defensive player of the year, an eight-time first-team All-Pro, a two-time second-team All-Pro, an 11-time Pro Bowler and finished his NFL career with 200 sacks, which is the all-time record. He played 15 seasons for the Bills and played the last four seasons of his career with the Redskins.
He was selected to the 1980s and 1990s all-decade teams, had his number 78 retired by the Bills and the Hokies. In 2005, he was selected into the state of Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, in 2006 he was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame and in 2009, he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his first year of eligibility.
Today, Smith lives in Virginia Beach and has become a successful businessman. His real-estate ventures have also included some development in Blacksburg, too. His son, Alston, played on the offensive and defensive lines for the Hokies from 2012-2015. Bruce is often seen around Blacksburg and is present for many home games.
Bruce Smith is a legend in any way you discuss him from his college career to his NFC career. And he’s a Hokie.