AP Writer John Wawrow

Mar 25, 2014|

John Wawrow speaks with Larry Hunter on Ralph Wilson, who died Tuesday at 95.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

I've got John morrow on the line -- John is the eight. And John thank you for taking the timeout deceiving to spend a little timeliness. -- and it's finally catching up to. You know just trying to put into words and figure things out and it's it's it's. It's a shopping days does that I think you know for for everybody in western new York and but what Ralph Wilson really -- it stands for idea that I got the honor and a privilege. 12 of them and they interview a few times and -- he was he was one heck of a guy. You're 95 but the -- though I don't know the twenty year old teenager in some ways with a passion regardless -- Football. John how long have you -- known mr. Wilson. Well I'd like for recovery team in 2000 and you know and it just. I just was going back and my first real accountable well it was on the sideline -- training camp in 2000. In my first question to home and was. Who he what he thinks about people wanting to succeed him as we're seeing -- succeed him as owner. And he ripped into me. That day. And rightfully so I'm saying I'm not going anywhere. And and the team not for sale. And he he was very passionate about the built in I learned my lesson learned a lot of -- well -- -- first encounter. You never held it against me but it was it was a using start. And I doing well I can see the look on his face sector that question to well. He was very you rent space then you know it it. It's really sad because of another memory because alum will former await possible news sports writer was sitting next to me and we kind of -- both stood there with our. You know now just wide open going wow OK that was something. John I think one of the things that the average person in Western New York who maybe never had -- an experience. -- mr. Wilson. Never really understood. Is that how much. Of a not just a football fan but a true bills fan mr. Wilson was a lot of people have accused him over the years. Of being in it for the money and I always thought he was in it because he just loves the game what what's your opinion. It's -- love affair with football and he told me this. Began to wonder what his father Ralph senior first -- the goal line game middle Tiger Stadium. And that was the start of a lifelong. You don't love affair with football. He loved football he -- shooter. You know that 2% share of the -- that Detroit Lions and remembers. You know just pumping mud and the opportunity to rub elbows with players to be in the mix. And win the opportunity to. Purchased the team. And you have the resources at that point after inheriting. Business. Two part of the team that upstart -- felt he let -- Robert review the 5000 dollars. That he invested which you know that it is part of the smartest and -- anybody's ever date. Given what what was but you know it is it -- -- fortunate and it. But he loves football he was. He is spirited that pastor about in the bill. For football this thing -- -- never took it too seriously to get it it reminds you why they were all. From Ralph Wilson that I had and it was back in twice and win now the built rocked them onside start and I think they're headed and only start. And and I got. Well on the phone and he was having difficulty hearing to get -- -- -- hope up in its own some and the one thing he said. These -- about the contradiction and I quote I want to apologize for the sponsors don't Ralph said wouldn't be that familiar chuckle it's almost as bad it might change. That that's a. And that really encapsulated. That mean well got he got it. He was the -- he was an owner -- disappointed is locked. Up I know that but he capital perspective. I I I know how bills fans some bills fans believe you wish people -- -- but Hewitt and it you know. For the love of the game in many ways and there are things that perhaps mistakes that he made missteps but he did. But I think there is his desire to win and the pastor pro football were true. John did you ever get to talk to Ralph and all about the disappointment of the four Super Bowls. I I I think I. I -- look past them that question at some point but it is it really just keeps me. That the what is answers might have -- You out of those teams just as we look I don't know if Google got a bat it felt champion. Championships back in the sixties. But I -- older -- disappointment that he never got that opportunity to win at all. And maybe you know I think that the conversation I -- -- -- maybe five years ago. Where he did indicate that it got to take five or six years. To rebuild this team and he might not be around. To see it you know and so I I can't for the Super Bowl question but I do know that that you'll gonna deal you know critics of cargo. 01 of the things that one of the impressions that I got about mr. Wilson. Was that unlike some owners today in the NFL. Mr. Wilson never wanted to be a part of the limelight it was never about him it was always about the team. And the players did you see that as well. There are one of throwback quality woman that and in that sense but that's not the -- -- -- like to be in -- -- He'd like to be interviewed to a certain eating he enjoyed the camaraderie. You know with reporters -- love that. Have a chance is it to expresses views but that's but what he's you stop at what he thought. You know he would overstep his bounds as far as who trample -- coach. Or to trample on management. And let them be put in the position to succeed. -- and try to build build his team. He has some influence you know in building and I mean -- -- stay on most every decision. The -- made during his tenure as president before relinquishing their role to to Russ Brandon. But. He wasn't. In the spotlight as Jerry Jones was. Or Dan Snyder in some ways but what Ralph would love to remind people it it was he who helped. Who had to say and in trapping Brooke Smith. He's the one who. You -- made that decision or hurt or old. So all in to go laughter. Thurman Thomas -- usually that are good but you're right he wasn't. He wasn't a guy who won it could be in the spotlight he is -- put that spotlight focused on this team and it's coach. Well he also gave the okay. To go grab by Cornelius Bennett. Or which which was a huge acquisition. Yup. And -- and their work you know he did have a car of football. I mean it was so. It was not. -- I can't remember the last time he spent an entire training camp. You know with the bills. But he was ten minutes corduroy pants were always you know you all along has started one of those. You are no matter how hard it was he'd be rivals -- -- in the and you know this. You know if it was an amusing -- most times that we got a chance to. He got into this field there you'd ever present he watched this football team. He -- that you know it's probably not the apple general manager but he. This goes back -- of the sixties when he was with the team all the time. And keep at it and he would cut in and it in and say. You know built back. I'm -- -- would John or John is the album Associated Press bills reporter -- has been for. About fourteen years now John it was 2011 when Ralph first miss. And opening the season game with the Buffalo Bills when he of felon and broke his hip. Were you able to. Talk or discuss with him at all. About the disappointment. When he all of a sudden. Got to a point where he wasn't able to attend the games at all. It wasn't it Hewlett disappointed that he couldn't come to buffalo -- -- Orchard Park watches games. But he you know he he he he he said he enjoyed. The fact that the -- watched the team from you know -- from home so eat eat eat there any he'd never -- -- there. So he'd be watching it on TV but I know how much you love to be you know at this stadium in that option but -- yard line where it across the -- sparks. And watch the team but there was something that was -- sense but he. You know the mortality that this had -- mortality it was starting to hit him and he was -- a great. He knew it was coming he did know when but. It beat you knew things -- he felt like he was wearing down. John how do you think them Ralph Wilson will be remembered by the National Football League. As the as a visionary. As somebody who saw who grabbed an opportunity. Let's think of how many how many upstart. We have actually survived. Or actually led to you know you got a point where they could merge with. What the superior league. And become an equal and in the NHL fourteen -- by BA BA in the NBA. A few teen spirit or what -- development and a AFL were able to do. In large part with outlook with the influential world Ralph Wilson who helped negotiate some of these deals. Problem what he did what he did you know everybody today. The modern day NFL. Meet the credit what Lamar Hunt and and and well Wilson and and Bud Adams. For for what this sport has become because well -- what they'll be well I'm not you know perhaps -- -- -- so would be you know worked out today. But he became. What it is today because of what they did back in the six. Now John are all Associated Press bills reporter John -- appreciate I know you've been but I had a hectic busy. Day and -- we really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us tonight here. On WBM and looking forward to having you come back -- Orchard Park and and visit us so hopefully for a much better season. Felt good but it certainly John thank you very much.