Every NFL Sunday, as the Bills players take the field for their pregame warm up, one Bill takes the time to give one young fan an experience they won't soon forget.
This Sunday, as he has every week, safety George Wilson will ask one young fan to join him on the field during pre game to play catch and get to know an NFL player. Wilson said it's something he looks forward to doing every game.
"I've been doing it for several years now, probably since 2007 or so," Wilson said. "Only reason I do that is to try to give kids the opportunity of a lifetime experience not only to come to an NFL game, but to get on the field and play catch with an NFL player which is an opportunity a lot of kids aren't afforded. So I just try to brighten some kids day every pregame."
The former Arkansas Razorback is finishing his fifth year as a Bills captain and has recorded 98 tackles through 15 games. Wilson admitted he tries to choose a kid who's a Bills fan, but considers any of them.
"I look for Bills paraphernalia," Wilson said. "It's easy at home when you have a lot of young kids on the sideline with Bills paraphernalia. So I either look for the ones that are trying to be shy or the ones that are real eager to get out too. I try to get boys and girls on the field. I try to make it open to everybody."
Wilson said he tries to make it comfortable for the kids by showing interest in their lives too.
"First I ask them their name and I introduce myself to them," Wilson said. "I ask them how old they are, where they're from, about school. Then I ask them about their favorite team and most of the time it's the Bills. I just try to interact with them and show them that I'm no different than they are."
Wilson has been named the Bills' Walter Payton Man of the Year in both 2009 and 2011 and started the George Wilson S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation to teach adolescents life skills in 2009.
The seventh-year veteran said he's received feedback from many of the kids who've thrown the pigskin with him at Ralph Wilson.
"Some of the parents and even some of the kids have sent me back photos we've taken together or written me letters," Wilson said. "I have maybe one or two of them in the top of my locker. Anything like them expressing gratitude and saying how much the experience meant to them shows me that I'm using my platform for the right reason."
Wilson said he'd act very similar to the kids he brings on the field if he was in their shoes.
"Oh man, I would've been star struck for sure," Wilson said. "Probably a little hesitant at first, but once you get out there and see how big the field is I'm sure I would've been excited. Just as excited as the kids seem when they play catch with me."
The former wide receiver noted although he loves playing catch with fans of his own team, he's had an occasional throw with other fans too.
"I've even played catch with kids who are fans of the opposing team, so I don't discriminate," Wilson said. "I definitely remember their faces, some of the pictures and images. I've played catch with children who are disabled or in a wheelchair. I've tried to accommodate all kinds of people. This year I've even started giving the first kid the football when I get through. I just try to give them lifelong memories and experiences and if we can have a photo at the end they can cherish it for that much longer."