Buffalo Bills superfan "Pancho Billa" passes away

May 14, 2019

He was born in Texas and had no Western New York roots. Yet Ezra Castro became attached to the Buffalo Bills and, as part of his passionate support for the pro football team, became the superfan character Pancho Billa. Castro passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 39 in his home state of Texas after battling stage four cancer, his family announced.

Ed Oliver, the Buffalo Bills' first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, visits Ezra Castro, alias Pancho Billa, in his hospital bed. Castro, who had no Western New York roots, nonetheless became a passionate and cherished fan of the Bills. He died Tuesday in his home state of Texas after a battle with cancer.
Credit Twitter/@PanchoBilla1

Castro, who was born in El Paso, later relocated to Dallas but had quickly won the hearts of Western New York-based Bills fans through his character, which wore a Buffalo Bills-themed luchador wrestling mask and sombrero.

His frequent posts included the hashtag #ViVaLosBills and, as he battled his illness, also included #PanchoPower. A children's book inspired by "Pancho Power" is scheduled for release this summer.

His family announced Castro's passing on his Twitter account:

Tributes to the Bills fan came quickly, including a message from the Bills on its Twitter account: "A Bills fan through-and-through, and an inspiration to us all. Pancho Billa, we’ll miss you.

The team's co-owner Kim Pegula offered her own statement as well:

Castro explained his attachment to the Bills was born when his father urged him to adopt a football team. As a tribute to his Mexican-American heritage, he sought teams whose colors would come closest to the colors of the Mexican flag. The Bills, with their blue, red and white, offered two of the three colors. His father and brother, meanwhile, became Dallas Cowboys fans.

He adopted his character based on Mexican reolutionary general Francisco "Pancho" Villa and in addition to the mask and sombrero created a costume featuring a poncho, a bandolier and leather arm guards.

He was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2017. The following April, the Buffalo Bills invited Castro to the stage at the 2018 NFL Draft so he could help them announce the team's third round pick, Harrison Phillips.

Castro was invited to join the Bills at this year's NFL Draft but was forced to cancel his travel to Nashville due to declining health. He did, however, participate by calling in the team's first round pick, Ed Oliver, from his hospital bed.

Matt Sabuda, who provides Bills analysis for WBFO, says Castro represented the best of sports fandom.

"Ezra was emblematic of what the Bills fanbase is all about. It's that sense of community and fun," Sabuda said. "He's somebody who certainly will be missed."