One of Buffalo's longest-tenured AFL players, Al Bemiller, passed away on Wednesday. Bemiller was quite literally at the center of Buffalo's American Football League back-to-back championship teams as he manned the pivot on the Bills' offensive line for nine seasons from 1961-1969.
A seventh-round pick of the Bills in 1961, Bemiller was also drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL but chose to sign with Buffalo for two reasons. One because it was closer to his native Hanover, Pennsylvania and two, because he was promised a starting job.
Right out of his first training camp Bemiller did win the starting job at center, a position he held for the next nine seasons appearing in 126 games with 123 starts. The highlight of his career were the two AFL titles in 1964 and 1965, earning AFL All-Star honors in 1965 in the process.
Originally recruited to Syracuse University for his wrestling exploits, the head football coach, Ben Schwartzwalder asked him to play for the football team. By his sophomore season Bemiller was a starter on the Syracuse offensive line and enjoyed great success as the then called Orangemen won a national championship that season (1959).
After his retirement from the Bills, Bemiller remained in Western New York working as a recreation director at Wyoming Correctional Facility. He also operated several businesses including a nightclub in Hamburg.
Bemiller was later a very successful wrestling coach at St. Francis high school in Athol Springs. Named to the position in 1978, Bemiller led the Red Raiders to three consecutive Catholic High School Athletic Association titles. He additionally served Western New York schools as an official for football and wrestling.
His commitment to Western New York after his playing days earned him the prestigious Ralph C. Wilson Distinguished Service Award in 2013. He was additionally inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
A dedicated member of the Buffalo Bills Alumni Association for decades, Bemiller was 84-years old.