Tonawanda News

Local News

March 26, 2014

Ex players, fans remember NFL's 'conscience'


Tonawanda News — Former players, including Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas, traveled to One Bills Drive to speak with the media about Wilson’s legacy. The emotional response was evident as a teary-eyed Thomas recalled Wilson calling him his “favorite son.”

“I was truly blessed to be around Mr. Wilson during the glory days. ... To have him in the locker room after a game, to see the excitement but also on the other side to see the disappointment of never winning a championship, but also coming into the locker room after big games, after Super Bowls, and always hearing him remind players, each one, that we wouldn’t have got here without you. ... So I’m going to miss him, without a doubt. He used to call me his favorite son.”

Locally, fans took in the news with sadness and many expressed long-held fears about what will happen once the team is sold.

“Unfortunately, in five years, I can see them no longer being here. I hope they find someone to keep them here,” said Denis Fountain, who had stopped in at East Avenue Tavern on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda Tuesday evening. “They were one of the original AFL teams. They really drive the economy. If they leave I think people will be disappointed in a big way.”

The bar’s owner, Gary Wudyka, said he remembers when the Bills first began playing in Buffalo, in 1960. Like many, the ties to the Bills run deep for him.

“I remember them playing at the Rock Pile. Ralph would want them to stay here in Buffalo,” Wudyka said. “It’s good for business, restaurants, hotels, we get crowds here for Sunday games. There are a lot of die hard fans here.”

Not everyone, though, was as downtrodden about the team’s long-term future in Western New York, including Dan Arnold, 23, of Buffalo, who took in the news at Dwyer’s Irish Pub on Webster Street in North Tonawanda.

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