2004 NFL Hall of Fame committee will have selected their nominees for
into the hallowed halls of Canton. One player, probably the best ever
his position in the NFL, deserves to be honored. Steve Tasker may not
looked imposing in or out of his football uniform, he probably would
in better pushing a lawn mower in the yard next door or selling you
insurance. But this baby faced assassin, all 5’9” and 190 pounds
wet) was the best player on one of the most dominating units in NFL
the Buffalo Bills special teams during the Bill’s golden era of the
1980’s through the Super Bowl years.
Mike Francesca, the national radio host of “NFL Now”
and well known
WFAN radio host, once paid Tasker the ultimate compliment - calling him
Lawrence Taylor of special teams”. He elaborated-“Just as LT dominated
offenses in the 1980’s - forcing teams to account for him - Tasker did
same-dictating blocking schemes and radically changing the game plans
Not only did Tasker get into the minds of special teams
around the league, but he also raised the level of play of those around
Unheralded names like Mark Pike and Butch Rolle had a sizeable impact
the Bills success in the area of special teams. It wasn’t all Jim
K-Gun and Bruce Smith’s sacks that won football games. More often than
the Bills had won the battle of field position before the offense or
stepped on to the field.
Where did this guy come from, anyway? The guy with
looks came straight from the heartland. Born and raised in Kansas, he
in relative obscurity at an obscure Div 1-A program at Northwestern
1980-84, when Northwestern was the doormat of college football. His 4.5
was good enough to be selected in the 9th round, 255th overall, by the
Oilers. Selected ahead of him was a punter from BYU and a WR from
At least he can claim one victory, the Oilers picked future pro-bowler
Golic one round after.
drafted was one thing, keeping a job was another. The 1985 Oilers were
off a dismal season in 1984, as the Earl Campbell era came to a close.
Moon was lured away from 5 consecutive CFL titles with the Edmonton
to pilot the Houston offense. The Oilers again limped to a last place
but Tasker made the club primarily as a special teams gunner and return
In the 1985 saw the collapse of the USFL, and the Oilers took full
of the glut of talent. The run –and –shoot offense run by cross town
Houston Gamblers (and future Bills QB Jim Kelly) became the blueprint
the future for the Oilers.
The Oilers added WR Earnest Givins and Tim Smith,
down on the depth chart. Sitting on injured reserve, the Oilers were
to activate Tasker when injuries to Givens and Smith left them depleted
games into the 1986 season. Houston Coach Jerry Glanville tried to
Tasker - but had to pass him through mandatory league waivers. He never
as the watchful eyes of Bills GM Bill Polian , and brand new Head Coach
Marv Levy were sure to scoop him up. Levy activated Tasker in his
debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 3 weeks later he blocked his
punt vs the Patriots.
The following year was a watershed for the Buffalo
teams unit. Coach Levy brought in Bruce DeHaven, an assistant he
and coached against in the USFL. Backup LB and special teams ace Mark
came on board. These two would combine for 7 incredible seasons
kick return men and kickers alike. Under the tutelage of DeHaven, Steve
Tasker became a Pro-Bowl player for the first time. Tasker Made 20
on special teams and led all players with three forced fumbles. He
a blocked punt and got a piece of 3 others. More importantly, the Bills
to dominate the league in kickoff and punt coverage.
he returned to the Pro Bowl with a vengeance, and put together a string
six consecutive trips to Aloha Stadium. Only Bruce Smith and Ruben
have made more consecutive trips representing the Bills. Incredibly,
6th and last trip back he was honored by the league as the AFC special
representative in a year he did not participate on the Bills special
unit! In 1993 he won the Pro Bowl MVP award, the only player ever to do
In 1993 against the Cowboys, he became only the second player to block
punt in Super Bowl history.
Tasker’s dominance on special teams made him a lunch
in a hard hat town. Appearing in 195 regular season and playoff games
his career, he made 204 career special team tackles and blocked seven
He wasn’t just one dimensional either. He led the league in punt return
average in 1995. On punt coverage his specialty was “gunner”, downing
and being the first tackler on the scene while drawing double and in
cases triple team blocks.
Late in his career, he even broke into the starting WR
spot on offense.
In his most memorable game agains the NY Jets on November 26, 1996, he
his career receiving yardage in one afternoon, gaining 160 yards on 6
for 2 TDs.
In the age of salary cap restrictions and tight
teams players of Steve Tasker’s quality are rare. To do what he has
over an incredible 12 season career will be very tough to duplicate. He
the position of special team players dominating in all facets of the
The NFL needs to put him in the hall of fame - for no other reason than
he was simply the most dominating force at his specialty in his era -
any era before or since.
member of the Bills for every game that Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy
the Bills. Unfortunately, in both his and Levy’s last game for the
he was tossed for accidentally bumping an official while arguing a
One of the smartest NFL players ever to take the field - he knew he had
up. And like the classy individual he was - he left the field without
Steve Tasker left a legacy that Bills fans appreciate
to this day,
and that young players hanging on to roster spots via the special teams
It will be a no-brainer that he will be honored one day on the Bills
of Fame - but if there will ever be a player picked to represent fully
third of the game (Special Teams) it should be Steve Tasker. There will
be another like him.