On the day of the NFL draft, Boogie Basham Junior was passing his time by watching highlights of Bruce Smith.
Later that evening, he’d be drafted by Smith’s former team. On Tuesday, he got first-hand tutelage from the Hall of Famer who stopped by Bills practice after playing in the Jim Kelly Celebrity golf event the day before.
Smith sees great potential in Basham and especially fellow rookie Greg Rousseau, who’s already impressed this preseason with two sacks.
“His potential is untapped,” Smith said. “Obviously, he’s got a lot to learn and it’s a process of learning it and it takes time. But I think we can accelerate that process by giving him the knowledge and the tools and the ability to be that student of the game.”
The guy who Smith thinks of when he looks at Rousseau is former Bucs great Simeon Rice. In 13 NFL seasons, Rice amassed 122 sacks and had ten sacks or more in one season eight times.
Smith called the pass rush Buffalo’s ‘missing element’ for this season and he thinks defense will be vastly improved. The young guys certainly appreciate picking the brain of a legend.
We definitely connect. He’s a really big dude and the way he used his length was great so I’m definitely going to try and do some of the things that he did in his career,” Rousseau said. “Just using his hands, being able to lock dudes out, diagnose run/pass keys, stuff like that.”
“Having a Hall of Famer… he’s pretty much saying the same thing the coaches are saying, but hearing it from him, him and the coaches coming together, giving physical tools of what they want us to do, the success he had and the success our coach as it’s great,” Basham said.
Smith remembers being on the other end of that conversation.
When he arrived in Buffalo, he remembers asking Pro Bowl defensive lineman Ben Williams why he uses his hands so much. Williams said it was to avoid being held. It’s those types of little insights that Smith says made him the player he was and the types of things he’s trying to impart on the team’s current crop of pass rushers.
Smith is also impressed with A.J. Epenesa and especially how well Epenesa uses his hands. Usually that’s something an NFL coach must teach, but Epenesa has it already. Smith believes Epenesa’s father, a former Iowa Hawkeye like his son, pass that information down early.
The family connection is something Smith also feels among the current and former Bills. He’s not the first 90’s great to stop by practice or offer some insight to the 2021 players. Sean McDermott built a bridge to the past that could help in the present.
“They’ll know that we’ve got these little nuggets that we can pass on that might give them a tip in a game or a competitive advantage that could lead to a big play,” Smith said. “We just want to share that information.”
He raved about all the work done by the Pegula’s, Brandon Beane and McDermott to build the Bills into an AFC power. Smith says he doesn’t like to brag to his NFL friends, but it’s easy to tell he’s reveling in the success of his former team. One of his lessons is that every member of the organization must do all they can not to waste it.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Smith said with a big smile. “We’ve got the makeup of a team to last the next four of five years. That window of opportunity… you’ve got to take advantage of it. After it closes, you never know when it’ll come back again.”
“The sky’s the limit. You see special things start to happen for the Buffalo Bills and we’ve got a lot to be excited about.”