As a Buffalo native familiar with the widespread concern about the future of the Bills franchise in Western New York, defensive back Corey Graham felt compelled to attend Friday's press conference formally introducing Terry and Kim Pegula as the new owners of the club. When the event had concluded Graham was left with an indelible first impression of his new boss.
"To see how emotional he was up there, especially being from Buffalo, keeping the Bills here in Western New York, it shocked me a little bit to see how much emotion he showed up there," said Graham. "But it was good because I definitely got the impression that this team was always something special to him. It really meant something to him and his wife to keep the team here. That the fans matter. It was all just a touching moment and me being a person from Buffalo, it was good to see that."
Graham has been in the league for eight seasons. He's played for three different NFL owners. What he witnessed from Pegula was something much more genuine than he anticipated.
"I'm glad I attended this event," he said. "You don't see guys of his stature show that kind of emotion and show that they really care about something that much, especially in front of people. It definitely showed that it's special to him. That he's one of us."
For Graham the future of the Bills in Buffalo holds more significance than most players. He grew up watching the team in Ralph Wilson Stadium with his uncles. It's why he kept a closer eye on the reports on the bidding and potential ownership than the majority of his teammates.
"Going into it I heard that everybody wanted him to buy the team, but to come here and see how much it meant to him, his wife and his family to keep the Bills here. To see the emotion that he showed… I'm a fan. Yeah I play for the Buffalo Bills, but deep down inside I'm still a Buffalo Bills fan, I've always been. I'm speaking as a fan now. It was a special moment for the fans of Western New York, for the Buffalo Bills fans, to see their owner show that type of emotion and cared that much about this team staying here."
Though Graham is a proud player who leaves it all on the field every week what he saw from his new owner might pull a little more out of him on game day.
"You can lay it out on the line for somebody like that because he cares," Graham said. "To see him out there before the game, giving a speech or whatever, get the fans all pumped up, but it's a special moment for the Buffalo Bills in general. This is a time in history for us and it's only right for us to go out there and lay it on the line and hopefully get a victory over the Patriots."