The Bills returned home to Highmark Stadium Friday night for Return of the Blue & Red, and the sights and sounds of the practice proved that Bills Mafia is ready for football season.
35,911 fans filled the seats to welcome their team home — the largest crowd ever for a practice — but they were quick to jump out of their seats whenever quarterback Josh Allen appeared out of the tunnel.
"We all know that Bills fans are the best fans in the world," Allen said. "Thank you for the love and energy that you brought to practice. It doesn't go without notice."
Rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir couldn't believe the crowd, which he got a taste for the first time as he was entering the stadium parking lot.
"As we're driving in, there's just traffic everywhere," Shakir said. "They said the roads were going to be shut down, and I was like 'oh it can't be too bad, it's a practice'. It just shows you how Bills Mafia, the fans, everybody, how much love they have for this team in this community."
Linebacker Von Miller has been anticipating his first experience at Highmark Stadium and the game-like atmosphere is making it easier for Miller to fall in love with Buffalo.
"Right when I walked out, it just it just hit me," Miller said. "The sun was up, and you see all the red, white, and blue. Everybody's cheering for you. I really felt at home right when I walked out that tunnel."
A few hours before the players took the field, offensive lineman Dion Dawkins shared his excitement to see the fans back at home on Twitter. The energy turned out to be better than he imagined.
"The good thing is that the fans continue to show out and show up," Dawkins said, "This place is epic, and it's electric here. I'm just happy to be a part of it and to give these people some hope. We're playing ball, so it's a beautiful feeling."
In the sea of red and blue, there were fans from just down the road, fans who traveled from out of state, and even a fan from across the globe who was just recently became a football fan.
High schooler Jacobo Vimini, who recently traveled to Buffalo from Pistoia, Italy took in the scenes at Highmark Stadium for the first time.
Vimini, who was proudly wearing his new Josh Allen Jersey, typically follows basketball back home in Italy, but has since found more interest in football thanks to the Bills. He was able to come to Friday's practice thanks to the host family he's staying with in New York who wanted to make sure he got the experience.
"I found out how beautiful this sport is and I'm so happy I found out by supporting this team," Vimini said. "I'm definitely going to root for them throughout the season and when I'm back in Italy, I'll try to get my friends into the Bills, too."
And there's no better way to celebrate your birthday than with your favorite football team. Victoria Patterson, of Hamburg, NY chose to spend her 13th birthday at today's practice as she loves the environment that Bills Mafia brings to the stadium.
"I grew up being a Bills fan since I was in the womb," Patterson said. "My dad's had season tickets over by the end zone for 18 years, so basically I grew up watching football."
Patterson and Vimini were just two of the almost 36,000 fans who took part in the wave the crowd had going, and who couldn't hold back cheering when the Bills completed a play on the field. Even though this was just a practice, it gets fans and players even more excited for the season to start.
"All the kids out here, everybody supporting," Miller said. "You see so many No. 40 jerseys, it's incredible. We're going to have a fun year. This is a great and fun fanbase, and I'm excited to get it going for real."
Bills hosted Return of Blue & Red practice on Friday, Aug. 5 at Highmark Stadium.