What a delight it was to see the then 91-year old Ralph Wilson Jr. get inducted into the ProFootball Hall of Fame in August of 2009. To say that I was touched by the life and graciousness that seemed to seep through his pores in an understatement. The experiences this man has had in life, and of the history of the game we love so dearly, are ones to which most of us cannot even begin to relate. As he said in his PFHoF induction speech – he watched his first game in 1935, between the Lions and the Bears, and he hasn’t looked away from the game since.
A passionate businessman and World War II Veteran, he became a minority owner of the Detroit Lions in the NFL, but when Lamar Hunt moved to create the AFL, Ralph Wilson shuffled off to Buffalo and named his new AFL team, the Buffalo Bills. He led a small town team to become an integral part of what made the people of Buffalo, a family.
While I was sad to see Ralph Wilson pass away this week at the age of 95, he lived a great life with joy and a smile, and with, as he said, “youth on his side”.
A great lesson for all of us.
I look forward to attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement and game this year between the Giants and the Buffalo Bills – two teams with a grey history in blue. I look forward to paying tribute to the gifts Ralph Wilson Jr. brought to this great game.