BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — George Saimes, regarded as one of the American Football League's best safeties and a member of the Buffalo Bills' Wall of Fame, died after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 71.
Saimes' daughter, Linda Durley, said her father died Friday night at a hospital in his hometown of Canton, Ohio.
Selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 1963 draft, Saimes spent seven seasons with the Bills, where he helped the team win back-to-back AFL championships in 1964-65. He was then reunited in Denver with his former Bills coach, Lou Saban, in playing three more seasons with the Broncos.
Saimes was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and, in 1970, was selected to the all-time AFL defensive team. He was known as a hard-hitting tackler, who finished with 22 interceptions in 121 career games.
He was a star at college, too, playing both defensive back and fullback at Michigan State. Saimes was selected the team's MVP in both 1961 and '62, and was eventually picked to the Spartans' all-time defensive team.
Football writer Larry Felser, who covered Saimes for The Buffalo News, once described the player as being "the finest open-field tackler in the league."
Cornerback Booker Edgerson agreed with that assessment regarding his former Bills teammate.
"George Saimes was one of the surest tacklers I ever saw," Edgerson recalled by phone Saturday. "If he got his hands on you, more than likely, you were going to go down."
He was solid in defending passes, too, except, as Edgerson recalled, that Saimes wasn't as sure-handed when it came to interceptions.