FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2011, file photo, former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, left, poses for a photo with Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr., right, before an NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y. Bills owner Wilson Jr. has died at the age of 95 at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich. Bills president Russ Brandon made the announcement at the NFL winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Wilson Jr. was one of the original founders of the American Football League and owned the Bills for the last 54 years. (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — During his 95 years, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson went from fan to “Foolish Club” member to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, enjoying every step along the way.
The NFL lost the person regarded as the league’s “conscience” on Tuesday, when Wilson died at his home around 1:40 p.m. Bills president Russ Brandon announced Wilson’s death at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.
His death resonated among the owners — from old to new. Wilson played an integral role in establishing the modern game, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
In 1959, Wilson founded the Bills in helping establish the upstart American Football League, whose owners were dubbed “The Foolish Club” for having the chutzpah to challenge the NFL. Some five years later, Wilson played an influential role in the framework for the merger of the leagues.
“Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America’s most popular sport,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement saying how grateful he was for how Wilson welcomed him to the NFL, adding: “I will miss him.”
So will Bills Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, whom Wilson lured out of retirement to serve as the team’s general manager from 2005-06.
“He wasn’t my boss, he was my friend,” Levy said. “Deeply saddened to hear about his passing. He meant so much to the game that both of us revered, and to the community of Buffalo and beyond. It’s Login to read more