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History of the Buffalo Bills

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© File photo, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Buffalo Bills are a professional National Football League team based in Orchard Park, NY, a suburb of Buffalo, NY. They are the only NFL team that plays home games in New York State.


The Buffalo Bills were a member of the old American Football League from 1960-1969. They were two-time AFL champions in 1964 and 1965. 


The Buffalo Bills joined the NFL for the 1970 season after the AFL–NFL merger. Buffalo has always been in the AFC East division in the NFL


The Buffalo Bills have had only two owners in their 60+ year history. Ralph Wilson Jr, owned the team from 1959 until his death in 2014 at the age of 95. His estate sold the team to Terry and Kim Pegula, which was approved by the other NFL team owners on October 8, 2014. The Pegula's are the current owners. 


Bob Kalsu, was a starting Guard for the Buffalo Bills in 1968 and was also the Bills' team rookie-of-the-year. He was the only professional football player to lose his life in the Vietnam War. Following the 1968 season, he entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and arrived in South Vietnam in November 1969 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He was killed in action on July 21, 1970, when his unit came under enemy 82-millimeter mortar fire at FSB Ripcord near the A Shau Valley. 


The Buffalo Bills have a storied history, including being the only NFL team to reach four straight Super Bowls. They are also the only team to have lost four straight Super Bowls.  An equally painful play-off history is "the drought," which was at one time the longest active playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports in North America (1999-2007).  The Buffalo Bills made the play-offs in 2017, and in 2019, although they lost both games. 


The Buffalo Bills have retired three numbers in franchise history: No. 12 for Jim Kelly, No. 34 for Thurman Thomas and No. 78 for Bruce Smith.  The Bills have three reduced circulation numbers including: No. 44 Elbert Dubenion, No. 66 Billy Shaw, and No. 83 Andre Reed (Lee Evans III wore No. 83 by special permission).


The Buffalo Bills have a number of excellent players honored on their Wall of Fame: including: OJ Simpson (RB, 32, inducted 1980), Jack Kemp (QB, 15, inducted 1984), Tom Sestak (DT, 70, inducted 1987), Billy Shaw (OG, 66, 1961-1969, inducted 1988), Elbert Dubenion (WR, 44, 1960–1968, inducted 1993), Mike Stratton (LB, 58, 1962–1972, inducted 1994), Joe Ferguson (QB, 12, 1973–1984, inducted 1995), Joe DeLamielleure (OG, 68, 1973–1979, and 1985 inducted 1997), Robert James (CB, 20, 1969–1974, inducted 1998),  Bob Kalsu (G, 61, 1968, inducted 2000), George Saimes (S, 26, 1963–1969, inducted 2000), Jim Kelly (QB, 12, 1986-1996, inducted 2001), Fred Smerlas (DT, 76, 1979-1989, inducted 2001), Kent Hull (C, 67, 1986–1996, inducted 2002), Darryl Talley (LB, 56, 1983–1994, inducted 2003), Jim Ritcher (C/G, 51, 1980–1993, inducted 2004), Thurman Thomas (RB, 34, 1988-1999, inducted 2005), Andre Reed (WR, 83, 1985-1999, inducted 2006), Steve Tasker (WR, 89, 1986–1997, inducted 2007), Bruce Smith (DE, 78, 1985–1999, inducted 2008), Booker Edgerson (DB, 24, 1962–1969, inducted 2010), Phil Hansen (DE, 90, 1991-2001), and Cookie Gilchrist (RB, 34, 1962-1964, inducted 2017)    


Non-players on the Wall of Fame include: Pat McGroder (Contributor, 1961–1983, GM 1983, inducted 1985), Ralph Wilson Jr (Owner 1959–2014, inducted 1989), The 12th Man  (Fams, 1960- present, inducted 1992), Marv Levy (HC, 1986-1997, GM 2006-2007, inducted 1996), Edward Abramoski (Trainer, 1960-1996), Bill Polian (GM, 1984–1992, inducted 2012), Van Miller (Broadcaster 1960–1971 and 1977–2003, inducted 2014), and Lou Saban (Coach 1962–1965 and 1972–1976 inducted 2015)


The Buffalo Bills also have many players who have played for the team that are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: OJ Simpson (RB, 32, inducted 1985), Billy Shaw (OG, 66, 1961-1969, inducted 1999), Jim Kelly (QB, 12, 1986-1996, inducted 2002), Joe DeLamielleure (OG, 68, 1973–1979, and 1985 inducted 2003), Thurman Thomas (RB, 34, 1988-1999, inducted 2007),  Bruce Smith (DE, 78, 1985–1999, inducted 2009), and Andre Reed (WR, 83, 1985-1999, inducted 2014).

James Lofton (WR, 80, played for the Bills from 1989–1992, inducted 2003 and Terrell Owens (WR, 81, 2009, inducted 2018) are also members of the Hall of Fame that played with the Buffalo Bills, although not the majority of their careers. 


Non-players in the Hall of Fame: Marv Levy (HC, 1986-1997, GM 2006-2007, inducted 2001), Ralph Wilson Jr (Owner 1959–2014, inducted 2009), and Bill Polian (GM, 1984–1992, inducted 2015).

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