The accomplishments of the 6'3", 245-pound Bill Bergey, who went to Pine Valley Central School, are impressive with numerous awards at Arkansas State University and with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.
Born in Gowanda on February 9, 1945, Bergey graduated from Pine Valley in 1964, where he played fullback and was a Class B Basketball League All-Star. He led the Panthers to an unbeaten league record and 19-1 record overall.
In his senior football season, Bergey appeared headed to all-star status after he scored six touchdowns and passed for another. However, illness in the fourth game sidelined him until the last game of the season. Besides playing fullback, the position that eventually made Bergey famous was linebacker.
Bergey received no scholarship offers and contacted Arkansas State coaches Bennie Ellender and Wayne Armstrong when they were in New York City for a coaches meeting. The coaches decided to give Bergey partial aid without ever seeing him play.
In his early collegiate career, Bergey played fullback and nose guard before moving to linebacker as a sophomore. He led the team in tackles for three years and was named a first-team College Division All-American in 1968 by the Associated Press and by the American Football Coaches Association.
That same year he was named the Worthern Amateur Athlete of the Year and in 1976 he was given the same honor on the professional level for the state of Arkansas. He was also voted by the fans as the top player in Arkansas State history.
Bergey played in 1968 Senior Bowl and later started for the College All-Stars against the World Champion New York Jets in 1969 at Chicago.
Bergey became the highest draft choice from Arkansas State when the Cincinnati Bengals drafted him on the second round (the 31st player taken) in 1969. Bergey immediately became a star. He was The Sporting News NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and stayed in Cincinnati through 1973.
The Eagles acquired Bergey on July 10, 1974 in exchange for first round draft choices in 1977 and 1978 and a second rounder in 1978. He had jumped to the World Football League's Orlando, Florida, team and was sued by the Bengals to bring him back. However, the Bengals lost the suit and wound up trading him to the Eagles, who paid Orlando $20,000 for his services. In his first six seasons with the Eagles, Bergey led the team in tackles. He set an Eag1es' record of 234 tackles in 1976 and was a consensus All-Pro selection.
Bergey was also an All-Pro in 1974, 1977 and 1978 and each year he was invited to the Pro Bowl. Three times (1974, 1976 and 1977) he was named by his teammates as the Eagles' Most Valuable Player.
At the age of 33, Bergey was then the highest paid defensive player in the NFL with a four-year $1 million contract.
He started 79 straight games before suffering a serious knee injury in the third game of the 1979 season at the New Orleans Superdome. He had surgery and made a comeback in 1980 by leading the team to the Super Bowl with tackles.
The Eagles lost the Super Bowl to the then Oakland Raiders and that turned out to be his last NFL game. It was later revealed he played the game with loose bone chips in his knee and bone spurs on both shoulders. He retired with 27 interceptions, including 18 with the Eagles, which was tops among any active linebacker.
In addition to being named to Arkansas State Hall of Fame, Bergey was inducted to the Eagles' Hall of Fame and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
Bill Bergey was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.
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