"Sam Dickerson?" howled Chandler.
Later came the news that "a Trojan wide receiver was the sixth-round choice by Detroit."
Said Chandler, "Well, that's a lot better than the seventh round."
The announcer continued, "He's Herman Franklin." Franklin had never played a down at USC.
Despair set in. Then O.J. Simpson called after the seventh round and said, "Welcome to Buffalo." Oddly, even though the Bills were a poor team, they had excellent receivers—J.D. Hill, Marlin Briscoe, Haven Moses—and thus Buffalo would be a hard club for him to make. More humility was dished out when Chandler went to talk contract and a Bills official said, "Seventh-round draft picks are not supposed to make the team." Which is why he promptly signed for a $3,500 bonus ($1,500 more in the unlikely event that he made the team) and three years at $15,000. $17,500 and $20,000. "I was so embarrassed," says Chandler, "that I just wanted to show them I could do it. There's always room for a guy who can play. There's not that much talent in the NFL."
This was back in the days when the Bills played and, weather permitting, practiced in rickety old War Memorial Stadium. Chandler and the other rookies once were sent out on the field to mash down the snow with team-issued boots. Then there was the time the Bills practiced on an ice rink. And finally, the day they worked out in the hallway of a recreation center. Chandler remembers watching Moses run a down-and-out—down to the Coke machine and out to the locker room—never to return that day. The players had to pay $2.50 to park half a mile from the stadium, and hot water in the showers lasted only five minutes—which meant none was left for a seventh-round rookie. Through it all, Chandler lived in the South Exit 56 Motor Inn and drove a 1953 Chevrolet he bought for $100 in which the heater didn't work. Meanwhile, the Bills went 1-13. "But we laughed," says Chandler, "because there was so much to laugh about."
Chandler's injuries have been no laughing matter. Flores says he doubts there is an injury Chandler hasn't had. That's ridiculous. In fact, Chandler has only broken his left foot, his left hand and four transverse processes in his back. He has torn cartilage in his left knee (which required four operations), twice separated his right shoulder and suffered a bunch of little things, like a collapsed left lung. And, of course, he ruptured his spleen in last season's opener.
The spleen was the spookiest of Chandler's injuries. After a world-class hit by Bronco Cornerback Perry Smith, Chandler lost 40% of his blood (about two of the normal five liters), his systolic blood pressure plummeted from its normal 120 to 70 and a hospital employee asked him, "Do you want to see a priest?" Shot back Chandler, "Do I need one?" Yes, he did. When he awoke to a room full of flowers, he checked his own pulse. Then Davis called and said, "I was up all night last night worrying about you and researching spleens."
"Yeah, and I've learned you can be all healed in four weeks." That was too optimistic, but Chandler did come back in six weeks although it was two more weeks before he got into a game as a receiver. Now, with a 12-inch scar on his stomach—"Playgirl would never want me now," Chandler says—he's ready to play full out again.