ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Center Kent Hull might have been the silent "K" on a Buffalo Bills "K-Gun" offense led by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. But make no mistake, it was Hull's grit and quick thinking that provided the no-huddle attack true pop in its heyday in the early 1990s.
Hull was remembered Wednesday as much for his leadership and toughness on the field as for his gentlemanly nature off it. The 50-year-old Hull died suddenly Tuesday in his native Greenwood, Miss.
"Kent was a terrific player for us, who was often overshadowed by some of the bigger names we had in our Super Bowl teams," Bills owner Ralph Wilson said in a statement. "But Kent was one of the key components of our team and of our high-powered offenses in the 1990s."
Wilson added there was so much more to Hull than the No. 67 jersey he wore for the Bills from 1986 to 1996.
"He was a true gentleman who was as nice as anyone you'd ever want to meet, and as tough as any player I've ever known," Wilson added. "If you were lucky enough to have Kent as a friend, you had a cherished friend for life."
Leflore County, Miss., coroner Will Gnemi ruled that Hull died from gastrointestinal bleeding.
His death came as a shock to his former teammates and coaches.
"It's certainly a sad day for his family, the Bills family and all of those who loved him," Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith said. "Kent was an incredible teammate, human being and friend. No matter what your status was on the team, he treated everyone the same."
Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas recalled how Hull took him under his wing when he first broke into the NFL in 1988.
"I would talk noise on the field only because I knew that he'd be there every time to defend and protect me," Thomas said. "I owe a lot of that stitching on my Hall of Fame jacket to Kent Hull."
Thomas added: "He was my teammate, a brother and best friend. He will be in my heart forever."
Hull was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and anchored the offensive line on a team that made four straight Super Bowl appearances, all losses, from 1991 to 1994.
He missed only two games with the Bills, and at one point played in 121 straight, earning him the nickname "Tough."
Hull broke into pro football in 1983 with the USFL New Jersey Generals, and was signed by the Bills once the league folded.
Hull was also a star at Mississippi State from 1979 to 1982, and played in one of the Bulldogs' most memorable games, a 6-3 win over top-ranked Alabama in 1980.
"He had the warmth and strength that was very attractive to other people," said Mike McEnany, Hull's roommate for two seasons at Mississippi State. "He was the kind of guy that if he had 20 bucks, you had 20 bucks. And he was an amazing football player, but he never felt comfortable talking about it. He wanted to talk about you."
McEnany added: "He was the kind of guy that everyone wants their son to be like when they grow up."
Hull was heavily involved in charitable organizations, including the United Negro College Fund and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Upon his retirement, Hull focused on working his large cattle ranch in northeastern Mississippi.
Bills special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven first met Hull with the Generals, and the two were later reunited in Buffalo.
"Kent was the kind of guy who didn't say a lot, but he could give you more meaning in one sentence than some guys could in a full speech," DeHaven said. "I've always told people that of all the stars that we had, the backbone of that team were (linebacker) Darryl Talley and Kent Hull."
Former Bills general manager and current Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian played a role in signing Hull.
"His physical toughness, work ethic, intelligence, character and sense of humor made him an undisputed leader on a team filled with Hall of Famers and stars," Polian said, in a statement provided by the Colts. "He was a fine man, a good friend and a true professional."
Hull is survived by his wife, Kay, and two children, Drew and Ellen.
Wilson and Knight Funeral Home in Greenwood, announced there will be a visitation Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. local time at Greenwood's First Presbyterian Church's Shuler Hall, followed by a service inside the church. He will be buried later in the day at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Greenwood.