Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly calls his former Buffalo teammate Steve Tasker, “the greatest special teams player of all time.”
But that’s not to discount his contribution on offense in the 1995 AFC wild-card playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. Tasker recalled that day – his five-catch, 108-yard performance that helped lift the Bills to a 37-22 victory over the Dolphins -- for the Talk of Fame Network in our “5 Games” podcast. That playoff game against Miami is the fifth and final installment of Tasker’s podcast series.
Tasker was a wide receiver in college at Northwestern but became a special teams ace in the NFL. He didn’t catch an NFL pass in his first four seasons with the Bills, spending his Sunday afternoons chasing kick returners. He caught only eight passes during Buffalo’s Super Bowl run from 1990-93 and didn’t catch a single pass in 1994. But with Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed hobbled with injuries for much of the 1995 season, Jim Kelly started throwing the ball to Tasker.
“There was a rash of injuries,” Tasker said. “It was always a big joke for me that I’d get to play wide receiver if one of the buses doesn’t show up for the game and the rest of the roster isn’t there. That’s basically what happened. We just started running out of bodies.”
It’s not that Tasker’s hands were unreliable. He caught two passes in 1990 and both of them went for touchdowns. He caught two more passes in 1991 and one of them went for a touchdown.
“The truth be known, I’d been playing wide receiver for six days a week during my career for Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills,” Tasker said. “Jim knew what I could do. I knew the offense. I knew where I was supposed to be. I could get there. Jim had a lot of confidence in my ability to win one-on-one battles.
“Finally, it got to one point in that season, Jim Kelly went to Marv Levy and said, `That’s it. No more special teams for that guy. We need him on offense because I don’t know if any of these other guys can even be to the right spot. The injuries were so bad that Marv kind of shrugged his shoulders and I started lining up at wideout. To make sure Marv knew that Jim knew what he was talking about, Jim just started throwing me the football whether I was open or not. That’s how all that evolved and I started catching passes for Jim Kelly and Marv Levy.”
Tasker caught 20 passes that season for 255 yards with three touchdowns. He collected the first 100-yard game of his career against the Dolphins, highlighted by a 37-yard touchdown reception.
“That was pretty cool,” Tasker said. “It was Don Shula’s final game as a head coach. He’s the winningest coach in NFL history. I had a lot of love and respect for him after playing for him in the Pro Bowl two years before. He had been a nemesis for us all through those years playing with those great players in Buffalo. It was Don Shula and Dan Marino against the Buffalo Bills.
“It meant a lot to me to be in that game and doing the kinds of things we were doing. They were handing me the football, throwing me the football and it was a lot of fun being in the offense. I had always been happy being the special-teams captain for the Buffalo Bills. But when I got a chance to play every down and distance for the offense with Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas and the rest of those guys, I realized how fun it was to be on the field that much. Really started to eat it up. I’ve got to tell you -- 1995 was the most fun I ever had playing football.”
Tasker also talks about playing in the golden era of NFL special-teams coverage units, how his family upbringing allowed him to click on the football field so well with Kelly, and what he enjoyed most about his 13-year football career. You can listen to this podcast – and all five of the Tasker podcasts in the “5 Games” series – at VoKalNow.com or by subscribing to our podcasts at iTunes. Click the links below: