Current and former Buffalo Bills mourned team owner Ralph Wilson yesterday, some tearfully.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the stadium that bears Wilson's name, a parade of alums, along with current Bill Fred Jackson, talked of a man they respected, a man who was the rock of stability for two generations of ups and downs, championships, and losing seasons.
Always, they say, Wilson was a man deeply engaged in the team and the National Football League. Booker Edgerson came to the Bills in 1962, in those years of the old American Football League with the team building to successive titles and forcing a merger with the older National Football League.
"We're his children. He has really had an effect on the alumni group here. I know we are definitely the best alumni group in the league," Edgerson said.
Older players say they probably knew Wilson best because he was much younger and more around the team and the games than he was in his age and ill health.
"I'm gonna miss him, without a doubt. He used to call me his favorite son," said former star running back Thurman Thomas, fighting back tears.
Former guard Ruben Brown says the owner should be remembered for bringing a professional football team here and keeping it here. Super Bowl-era special teams ace Steve Tasker remembered winding up with the Bills halfway through a season and meeting Wilson when the owner came over to him in the locker room to welcome him to the team.
Former coach and GM Marv Levy says he and Wilson were very close.
"He wasn't my boss. He was my friend," Levy said via telephone. "He's going to be remembered so fondly by everyone who knew him."