As celebrations and remembrances of the life of Ralph Wilson, Jr. continue, many of his friends, family, and former players and coaches who became his family gathered at the Bills Fieldhouse today to honor the man they knew and the legacy he left behind.
"That this is a fitting tribute is probably an understatement. I really think that what Mr. Wilson stood for, his legacy, his commitment to Western New York and Bills fans across the country - speaks for itself. His commitment to always keep the team here in Buffalo was sort of a lifeline for Western New York. He was an incredible man.
"[The Hall of Fame induction] was a special moment that no one else can say that they've shared with Mr. Wilson. Being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the same year, it leaves you at a loss for words. I was just looking at some of the pictures we took during the Hall of Fame ceremonies and just to see the the smile on his face that he was finally going in and it just happened to be the same year that I was going in, I think that's what made it special for Bills fans, the Bills organizations, and myself.
"I remember in 1985 when I was drafted by the Bills, the day I signed the contract I was with my agent and Van Miller was doing the commentating. Kay Stephenson was the head coach, and Ralph was at the end of the table and he had this worried look on his face like, 'Lord knows I hope I'm not wasting this draft pick on this chubby kid from Norfolk.' here's an illustration of what he looked like the day he signed the contract, like he was praying that he didn't waste his first round draft pick on somebody that didn't live up to the billing."
"We looked at him as a father figure, a man with great integrity. When he gave you his word, that was his bond. It spilled over to the players in the personal relationship you could have with Mr. Wilson. You don't find many player-owner relationships like that."
"It's pretty special. Mr. Wilson has a special legacy in all of our hearts. As one of his players, it was always a special treat when he's come out on the practice field on a Friday - just one of the guys. I think that's the thing that sticks out about Mr. Wilson more than anything else. He was so down to Earth. You see here today, the pomp and circumstance, but the unique thing about him was that none of that was important to him. Not the image. Not the pomp. Not the circumstances. It was about his team, his players, Western New York. I think we had a special relationship as players.
"The things that are most moving is just to hear the players talking amongst ourselves with former coaches and staff here, remembering and telling stories. Those are special.
"I always remember after the Comeback Game, Mr. Wilson was so gracious. This was months after the game. he was still so moved by the whole game that he came up to me and basically wanted to give me a gift for the game and ended up writing a pretty large check to the charity of my choice. It was just something in his heart to do and he was just a very special man."