It always amazes me when I stop to think about things how our perspective changes as we grow older, how people and things seem to get “smaller.” I remember in grade school how big the kids in high school seemed. How, when I would go to watch the Batavia Clippers play at old Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, the players all seemed like giants to me. I’m sure I wasn’t the only five year old who felt that way. But as we grow up and older, perspectives change. You learn to see things for what they are. When driving past a high school, the boy who the seniors once towered over thinks, “they all seem so young.” And you laugh when you see baseball players fresh out of college that still can’t even grow a beard. I can’t help smiling when I think about it, how in such a large world that we live in, everything (except for student loans and taxes) seems to get smaller.
But there are exceptions to this rule. As I sit here to write this on Thursday morning, having had a day and a half or so to reflect on the death of Kent Hull, he seems like one of those rare exceptions. Let me preface this by saying, unlike many reporters that have eulogized Kent Hull so well, and many have, I did not know Mr. Hull, although I did meet him once. I was seven or eight years old, and my father took me to watch a group of Bills players take part in a charity basketball game against a group of teachers at Albion high school. I remember being so excited to see the likes of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and the rest of the guys that I watched on the black and white TV in our garage while playing catch with my dad. Instead, it was a bunch of guys that I’d never heard of, and Kent Hull. At halftime of the game, the players signed autographs for the fans and I was lucky enough to get Mr. Hull’s autograph on one of his cards. For some reason, I still have that card today. I don’t know how I never lost it, or why I never gave it away to friends. Maybe because Hull’s autograph was the first one I ever got in person from a “big-name athlete.” Or maybe just because one day down the road it would make me appreciate the man who I didn’t know, but so many adored, just a bit more. I still don’t know, but I’m happy to have it.
The only thing I remember about Hull was that he was a big man. Actually, at 6-5, 278 lbs, he’d probably be considered small for an NFL offensive lineman these days. But to me, the man was a giant. Yet, after his passing, instead of appearing smaller than he used to, Hull seemed to grow in stature. I read from Jerry Sullivan
in the Buffalo News how he actually cried when he heard of Hull’s death, because Hull was a man of character, decency, and truly loved Western New York. Sal Maiorana
of the Democrat and Chronicle called Hull the most genuine man he’s ever met. There are countless others if you look too. These men covered the Bills back in the glory days when I was just a kid. They painted a picture of the man who treated everyone with respect and stayed humble when he could have just as easily chosen not to. Heck, the reporters even took Hull out to lunch upon his retirement to say, “Thanks.” When reporters talk about crying, and having Hull’s former teammates call them on the phone in tears, you know the man was something special.
I may not have known Kent Hull, but thanks to many of my colleagues I have been able to find a man that while he seemed like a giant back in the hallways of that high school in my youth, he was in reality, much bigger than I ever thought. And I’ll always have that card to remind me.