Bills CEO and owner Terry Pegula knows himself too well. It didn't take long for him to get emotional as he addressed a throng of local dignitaries, media and fans watching in their homes across Western New York announcing he and his wife Kim as the new owners of the Buffalo Bills franchise. Less than 100 words into his speech Pegula paused and broke down saying, 'I knew this was going to happen again.' But what he said in his next breath spoke to his ability to relate to the everyday fan.
"We all just bought a team," he said. "Our team: the Buffalo Bills."
Pegula called himself a private man, but on Friday he was sharing his ownership with a fan base that worried for decades about the club's long term future. In the end founder and owner Ralph Wilson made every arrangement to secure the team's rightful place in Buffalo, but it wasn't until the Pegulas' were declared as the winning bid that the Western New York community collectively exhaled.
The Bills' new owner was aware of the concern. It was a concern that he and his wife Kim shared, but he didn't fully grasp the depth of it until he was driving back to Buffalo from a Sabres' prospects tournament in Michigan. Just hours after he and his wife Kim were announced as the winning bidders for the club, Pegula listened intently to the outpouring of emotion from fans calling in to WGR radio relieved that the future of the franchise in Buffalo had been secured.
"I could not believe what I heard from fans," he said. "It was an open forum of relief that, 'Hey, we don't have to worry about this anymore.'"
The second owner of the Bills was also moved by the legacy he follows.
"The big thing is Ralph (Wilson) was a large personality. He started this franchise and look where it is now," Pegula said. "That's a pretty overwhelming legacy, fifty-four years, and a year from now I'm going to be on one (year). That's a credit to Ralph (Wilson) and his legacy."
Though Pegula never met Ralph Wilson, he made a point to trace a connection between himself and the Hall of Fame founder of the franchise. Pegula went all the way back to his early youth when Wilson was a minority owner of the Detroit Lions, and he was a Lions fan at eight-years old.
"I liked lions and tigers when I was a kid, so I saw a football card with a lion on it and a baseball card with a tiger on it and I became Lions and Tigers fans," Pegula told Buffalobills.com. "But to root for the team that he was a part owner of and then to buy the team that he started and the thing with him beating the Lions (last Sunday), and it was him even though he passed away, his last game as owner, you can't make this stuff up. I feel like he's personally handed it over to me."
Pegula shared how he watched AFL games as a kid, and being drawn to the high scoring games and downfield passing.
"I watched, with curiosity, Buffalo Bills games back in the early '60s, mostly because there was snow on the field for most of them," he said. "It was a fun league to watch. I remember back in those days we'd watch NFL games where it was 10-6. You'd watch an AFL game and it was 45-41. You never knew when the game was over."
Pegula holds a great deal of reverence for the man he succeeds and what the team means to the city of Buffalo. That's why it was evident he was proud to be the person to step in and silence doubt about the club's future, while also maintaining, and soon building on its tradition.
"The name of our team will not change. It will stay the Buffalo Bills," he said. "Owning any professional team is about winning and the primary goal of our ownership will be to win the Super Bowl and bring championships to the City of Buffalo and myself and my family will dedicate ourselves to that. We want to bring a Super Bowl to the Niagara region courtesy of your, our, my Buffalo Bills."