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AUDIO/VIDEO
Video
 The class of 2001
This year's crop of NFL Hall of Famers sounds off on their elections.
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 Spectacular play
Dan Patrick and Sean Salisbury take a look at the 2001 Hall of Fame class.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Levy had hunch he'd get into Hall
By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com


TAMPA, Fla. -- Marv Levy had a feeling Saturday might be his day when the 2001 inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced.

Marv Levy
Marv Levy led the Bills to the playoffs in eight of his 12 seasons as head coach.
After all, there was former Hall of Fame director Pete Elliott boarding the same Tampa-bound plane as Levy earlier this week in Chicago.

And there was Don Shula and fellow 2001 nominee Nick Buoniconti in the elevator this morning as Levy's nerves built for the big announcement.

"Those were touching events," Levy said. "I felt like something might happen."

It did, as Levy became the 12th NFL head coach elected to the Hall. And just like he often did during his 17-year head coaching career, Levy had a wisecrack to help put the event in perspective.

"I'll tell you what," he said, "it's nice to finally have something to celebrate on Super Bowl weekend."

Such is the crutch of Levy's career. He led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls from 1991 to '94, but each time he walked away the losing head coach. Still, in his third year of eligibility for the Hall, his resume was more than enough for induction.

A three-time AFC Coach of the Year and one-time NFL Coach of the Year (1988), Levy led the Bills to the postseason in eight of his 12 seasons. He ranks fifth in postseason victories among all-time NFL coaches (11) and has 143 regular-season victories.

And his winning percentage of .561 ranks him 10th on the league's all-time list.

Hopefully, Marv Levy's Hall of Fame election will be an early, positive sign for the players who played for Levy on the Buffalo Bills. Someone like Jim Kelly should make the Hall of Fame now that Levy has.

Levy gets recognition for at least going to the Super Bowl four straight years, a record I believe will not be repeated. Just because the Bills didn't win the title doesn't mean they weren't a good team. Granted, it would have been nice to win one. But for what it's worth, Levy's team still won four straight AFC titles. That's a credit to Levy.

Somebody had to orchestrate, direct and guide the Bills. The Bills may have had great talent, but Levy motivated them and kept them focused each year to reach their potential. And he at least got them to the Super Bowl when all but one other team was watching the game on TV each year.

After hearing his name announced, Levy said his mind immediately filled up with all the people that helped him reach this pinnacle.

"I've been surrounded by some wondrous athletes, some great people," he said. "What a group of warriors I coached and I don't just mean the Hall of Fame stars. They were great fellas with the stoutest of hearts. Win or lose, they were still my guys."

Prior to achieving mass notoriety for his success with the Bills, Levy was a head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL and the Chicago Blitz of the USFL.

With the Chiefs, he took a 2-12 team in 1977 and improved it to 9-7 by '81. But a disappointing 3-6 record in the strike-shortened 1982 season led to his dismissal.

Then, after a two-year hiatus from coaching and one season as the top man for the Blitz, he returned to the NFL as coach of the Bills.

Two years later Buffalo finished 12-4, winning its first of six AFC East titles. From 1988 to '97, the Levy-led Bills were second to only the San Francisco 49ers in NFL winning percentage.

"People say there's no such thing as a player's coach, but I think there is," said Jim Kelly, Levy's quarterback during his tenure with the Bills. "The way he was able to handle guys like myself, Thurman (Thomas), Bruce (Smith), Cornelius Bennett, Darrell Talley and all the guys who made the Bills what they are, there's not many who could be able to do that.

"He knew exactly the right words to say at the right time and how to deal with all of us."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com.





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