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Walking the Wall of Fame: Billy Shaw

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Welcome back again! As we continue to visit the hallowed halls of Bills history, ticking off the names on the Wall of Fame one by one, we have but a single goal: To tell the tales of every person whose name graces our walls, and their impact on the team we all love. To see the rest of the series, click the links below. (More will be added as they become available.)

O.J. Simpson (1980)Jack Kemp (1984)Patrick J. McGroder (1985)Tom Sestak (1987)Billy Shaw (1988)
Ralph C. Wilson Jr. (1989)The 12th Man (1992)Elbert Dubenion (1993)Mike Stratton (1994)Joe Ferguson (1995)
Marv Levy (1996)Joe DeLamielleure (1997)Robert James (1998)Edward Abramoski (1999)Bob Kalsu (2000)
George Saimes (2000)Jim Kelly (2001)Fred Smerlas (2001)Kent Hull (2002)Darryl Talley (2003)
Jim Ritcher (2004)Thurman Thomas (2005)Andre Reed (2006)Steve Tasker (2007)Bruce Smith (2008)
Booker Edgerson (2010)Phil Hansen (2011)Bill Polian (2012)Van Miller (2014)Lou Saban (2015)
Cookie Gilchrist (2017)Reserved For
Future Legend
Reserved For
Future Legend
Reserved For
Future Legend
Reserved For
Future Legend
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In this edition of Walking the Wall of Fame, we regale ourselves with the tale of the only player in the Hall of Fame who never took a snap in the NFL. That’s right sports historians, we’re visiting the legend that is Billy Shaw.

Young Life

Shaw played sports constantly as a child. He played everything he could get his hands on but displayed a particular aptitude for football. A rare talent for his age group, Shaw played both Offensive and Defensive Tackle up until his high school stopped carrying football entirely. That wasn’t good enough to be the end for a legend like Shaw, and his father knew it. He moved the entire family further into town to enroll him in Carr Central, where he had the opportunity to further develop his game until college. Shaw dominated on the gridiron like a man double his size, and it was good enough to get him into Georgia Tech.

He’d always insisted he played better defense than offense, but Billy got more playing time on the offensive line than elsewhere on the field. Still, he considered himself a Defensive End who dabbled in offense throughout his college career. He played so well that he was elected to the College All-Star team in 1961 (his final collegiate season).

At that exhibition, they played the reigning NFL Champions Philadelphia Eagles. He spent most of his time in practice for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity lined up as a Defensive End but got swapped to Guard after an injury to a starter. Shaw’s first time playing on the interior offensive line came without any professional training against the defense that had just knocked the life out of the Green Bay Packers.

Somehow, Shaw was dominant in his first foray and put himself on the map for teams in need of a new-age ‘Pulling Guard’. Despite the inevitable loss, Shaw had shown a natural talent at the position and versatility that could prove invaluable for a professional franchise.

Buffalo Billy

He was drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys in the 1961 draft (14th round, pick #184), but they expected him to play at LB. Unfamiliar with the position and his odds of actually having a career there, Shaw was thrilled when he heard the news from the AFL. Buffalo was far more interested and showed it, selecting him in the second round (9th overall). Buffalo wanted him to play Defensive End or Guard, per his most recent success. And, on the advice of his former coach and College Hall of Famer Bobby Dodd, Shaw was willing to take that swing. He was an immediate starter for the Bills on the O-Line, excelling in both run and pass protection, and helped us to take this new league by storm.

His smaller-than-average frame for the position made him a massive threat due to his ability to slip blocks and get out in front of the Running Back on most plays, which helped a dominant offense pry open gaps in defenses week in and week out. Shaw was an All-Star in every season of his career, aside from his rookie year, and made the All-AFL Team in all but three of those eight All-Star seasons. On the back of his incredible work in the trenches, we earned two consecutive AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965. After his retirement in 1969, the NFL-AFL merger happened and he was named a starter on the All-Time All-AFL Team.

A Wife Or Death Experience

In his 1999 Hall Of Fame induction speech, Billy would make a mistake that every player fears to make someday. He thanked just about every person under the sun for their love, support, and undying faith in him, and was already offstage when he realized his fatal error. As he posed with his bust, he made eye contact with his daughter, sitting in the front row. She lifted her hand and slowly, threateningly, drew her finger across her throat, mouthing the words “Forgot Mom”.

Shaw had forgotten to thank his wife, of all people, and quickly sought to remedy that. He would return to the stage, on his hands and knees, to publicly apologize and beg for his wife, Patsy, to forgive him. Since that day, when being inducted into the Hall Of Fame, inductees are warned to be wary of ‘The Billy Shaw Rule’ and always thank their wives, lest they suffer a grim fate. Widely considered one of the best to ever do it, Shaw was interred to the Wall of Fame in 1988.

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