While it's hard to find an event as thrilling as a game at New Era Field, it's always exciting for fans to watch Bills players take the field. For Jim Russo, a Buffalo native and 50-year Season Ticket Member, and his 10-year-old grandson Jack Heider, a recent trip to Orlando afforded them an opportunity to get another look at the Bills this offseason. Russo, who was selected by the Bills to take part in the 2020 Pro Bowl Season Ticket Member Experience, has enjoyed numerous Bills-themed activities with Jack by his side, but the vacation marked his first time at the exhibition game.
From the moment the trip got underway, the duo knew it would be one that they'd never forget – especially Jack. A proud grandfather of four, Russo felt that the youngster was the perfect fit for the excursion due to his profound football acumen.
"He's a big football fan in general," said Russo. He's a big Bills fan, but he's knowledgeable about all aspects of football [like] the other players on other teams. So, it was an ideal trip for him.
"Jack is the 'football guy'."
Presented with a packed itinerary, the Bills fans met up with season ticket members from around the NFL on Friday, Jan. 24, to kick off the weekend-long adventure. In the days leading up to the game, the group was treated to behind-the-scenes programs such as a "You Make the Call" session with the NFL SVP of Officiating Al Riveron, a "How to Make the NFL Schedule" presentation by NFL VP of Broadcast Planning Mike North and a front row view at practice and the skills challenge.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were treated like royalty," Russo elaborated. "The game was pretty interesting, although it isn't quite the football we're used to. It's not Bills football, but it was fun to watch some of the best players in the world compete. We were able to go down on the field before the game and watch some of the practice before the game. You don't often get a chance to see players like that up close and personal."
Everywhere they went, Russo and Jack were proud to represent the Bills. Sporting their custom team jerseys, they made their way around Orlando and even to Hollywood Studios during their down time. As close-knit as it gets, the pair was overjoyed to be together to see Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White, wide receiver and specialist Andre Roberts and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds suit up for the AFC. They were also excited to become acquainted with fans from opposing teams like the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.
The highlight for Russo though, was the consistent look of happiness on Jack's face.
"Obviously, all the swag that we received was really overwhelming," he said. "I enjoyed the experience of the game. Like I said before, it was interesting to see some of the best players in the world competing against each other. I don't know that it would've been better if I hadn't been with my grandson. I think if I had been with another adult, I don't think the experience would be the same for me, but I think just having him enjoy it, the excitement of going on an airplane [was great]. He was really excited about seeing the driver we had hold up our name when we got off the airplane…it was first class all the way."
Scroll through to view photos of Bills players Tre'Davious White, Tremaine Edumunds and Andre Roberts at the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Bills Legend Bruce Smith is also in attendance, serving as a Legends Captain for the AFC Defense.