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Walking the Wall of Fame: Tom Sestak

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Welcome back readers to “Walking the Wall of Fame”, where we tell the tale of those 31 names which adorn the walls of our hallowed halls.

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
Future WoFers:
AFL/Early NFL
Future WoFers:
The Golden Era
Future WoFers:
The Drought
Navigate the Wall of Fame here!

Buffalo has had many eras of dominant defense, and it’s hard to pinpoint which one was the best. But there are a few players in team history who stand out from that side of the ball. This week’s inductee is another legend of the AFL Bills, DL Tom Sestak.

AFL Poaching

Sestak wasn’t always a Defensive Lineman though. The McNeese State University alum played his entire collegiate career as a TE, long before the days of true pass-catching threats at the position. Despite the lack of need for mid-size blocking talent in the NFL, Tom believed in his potential. So he declared for the NFL and AFL drafts in 1962. On December 4th, the Detroit Lions selected him in the 16th round and his NFL career could have begun. Little did they know, he had a more tempting offer.

The AFL’s Buffalo Bills took him in the 17th round two days prior, during their own draft. Numerous AFL players initially joined the league because they were from smaller schools with little-to-no exposure and/or had no chance at making a roster in a talented NFL. Shooting their shot in a new barrel of fish was their best chance at playing football again, and Tom Sestak took that shot.

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A Football Career

Immediately, he changed position to the Defensive Line and the success he saw was unprecedented. He went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and was All-Pro for the next three years. His dominance came to an end too swiftly, as it sometimes tragically does, with Sestak retiring after the 1968 season. He fought to stay on the field through a jumble of knee injuries before he was eventually unable to play. In 1970, he was selected to the All-Time All-AFL Team and is regularly mentioned in the HOF conversation as a historic selection.

In Memory

Unfortunately, he would become the first Bill ever interred upon the Wall of Fame posthumously. Sestak died of a heart attack in April 1987, aged only 51. He was famed for being an excellent person and teammate, and undeniably tenacious. He is well remembered for playing a full season with three broken ribs.