As many of you probably already know, yesterday was a sad day for the NFL. Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, the only man to have owned the team he founded in 1959, passed away. President and CEO of the Bills, Russ Brandon, said in his announcement of the passing, "He passed away peacefully at his home with his beautiful wife, Mary, and his daughters by his side." Wilson was 95.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Wilson founded the Bills as an original member of the American Football League in 1959, with the league beginning operations in 1960. He was the longest tenured owner in the NFL at the time of his death, and the third longest tenured owner in league history. Wilson's first attempt at an AFL franchise would have been based in Miami, but he turned to Buffalo after the league denied his request for the South Florida franchise.
Wilson maintained control of the day-to-day operations of the Bills throughout most of his time as the team's owner, briefly giving up the power in 2001, but retaking it in 2006. He gave control to Brandon in 2013.
With news of his passing, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released this statement:
"Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America's most popular sport. He loved the game and took a chance on a start-up league in 1960 as a founding owner of the American Football League. He brought his beloved Bills to western New York and his commitment to the team's role in the community set a standard for the NFL. As a trusted advisor to his fellow league owners and the commissioner, Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues. His lifelong loyalty to the game was instrumental in his richly deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We are grateful for his many contributions to the NFL and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the Wilson family."
Obviously, as Miami Dolphins fans, we have seen the Bills twice every year since the AFL gave South Florida the team Wilson originally wanted. And, he's a man who should be remembered fondly and respected. He, along with Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams, is one of the main reasons why the AFL was able to be the only football league to rival the NFL, leading to the merger and, ultimately, the league we know today.
The Dolphins sent out this tweet upon hearing the news:
Stephen Ross and the Dolphins wish to express their deepest condolences to the Wilson family, @BuffaloBills organization and their fans.— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) March 25, 2014
Unfortunately, yesterday I was tied up in meetings at work all day, so I wasn't able to put this together until now, but I did want to take a minute to express my own condolences to the Wilson family and Buffalo Bills fans. You can head over to Buffalo Rumblings if you wish to express your own condolences to a fan base who will truly miss their team's owner.