Former Bills players, in stop at Medina, see strong season for Buffalo
Bills alumni were in town to raise money for prostate cancer research, awareness
MEDINA – Six former Buffalo Bills at a recent fundraising event in Medina are very excited about the team’s prospects this season, but the Bills alumni didn’t want to jinx the team by predicting a first Super Bowl victory.
But the players were impressed after the Bills dismantling the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 31-10 on the road Sept. 8. The Bills are back on the filed tonight at home versus the Tennessee Titans.
“They have all the tools,” said Ken Jones, an offensive lineman with Buffalo from 1976 to 1986. “They can take this all the way, but it’s one game at a time.”
Jones was joined by five other Bills alumni – Booker Edgerson, Marlon Kerner, Paul Maguire, Lou Piccone and Ed Rutkowski – during an event at the Medina Theatre on Sept. 10. They were raising money for “Cure the Blue.” That effort seeks more funding for prostate cancer awareness and research. The Medina event raised $2,900 for the cause.
Jones said the Bills will be a powerhouse as long as Josh Allen stays on the filed. Allen has a rocket arm and also runs often, barreling into linebackers and lineman. He is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 touchdowns throwing and 25 running in his forist four seasons.
Jones would like fewer running plays for the quarterback.
Ed Rutkowski was a wide receiver and backup quarterback on the Bills from 1963 to 1968. He may be best known for serving eight years as Erie County executive from 1979 to 1987. He remains a diehard Bills fan.
“They’re talented, they’re deep, they’re well coached,” Rutkowski said. “But don’t run Josh so much.”
Paul Maguire, who may be best known as television sportscaster, was a punter and linebacker. He first played for the San Diego Chargers in 1960 and then joined the Bills, playing with Buffalo from 1964 to 1970. He was a member of three AFL Champion teams, two with Buffalo and one with the Chargers.
“We’re the only champions they’ve ever had,” Maguire said about the 1964 and ’65 Bills.
Maguire said he cringes when Allen takes off with the ball and seldom slides, preferring to be wrestled down by a defender.
“We don’t want to see the quarterback running the damn football,” Maguire said.
Rutkowski said injuries and weather are unknowns in the season.
“It’s not easy getting to the Super Bowl,” he said. “You have to win your division and then get through the playoffs. Everyone is going to be out to get the Buffalo Bills.”
Even the top teams can have a bad game. Rutkowski recalled being on the 1968 team that won only one game. It was a huge upset, 37-35 over the New York Jets that were led by Joe Namath and would go on to win the Super Bowl that year. But in a game against the Bills, Namath threw five interceptions with one returned for a touchdown by Edgerson. The Bills had the worst record that year and used their first round pick in 1969 on O.J. Simpson.
Maguire thanked Edgerson for leading the former Bills into another cause, “Cure the Blue.”
“I can’t tell you how important it is to be part of something you’ve never had,” Maguire told the group at Medina Theatre. “Booker has worked so hard for years to educate on this issue.”
Edgerson, an all-star defensive back for the Bills in the 1960s, was first treated for prostate cancer 26 years ago.
Edgerson is a member of the AFL championship teams in ’64 and ’65. He is on the Bills Wall of Fame. He is the president of the Buffalo Chapter of the NFLPA Retired Players Association.
Edgerson said men avoid talking about prostate cancer but he wants it to be discussed, much like breast cancer.
As part of the “Cure the Blue” initiative, men who are minorities are urged to be regularly screened for prostate cancer beginning at age 40 while white males should do annual screenings beginning at 45.
“It should be treated just like mammograms,” Edgerson said.
Other Bills at the event included Lou Piccone and Marlon Kerner.
Piccone was an undersized wide receiver and kick returner who played 10 seasons in the NFL with the Jets from 1974 to 1976, and then the following seven years with the Bills retiring in 1982.
He overcome obstacles to make an NFL team, and then was able to stay on a roster for a decade, despite weighing only 168 pounds. He caught 100 passes in his career, gaining 1,380 yards. He led the NFL with 39 kickoff returns and 961 kickoff return yards with the Jets as a rookie.
Piccone said punting and kickoffs are important, if they don’t get the limelight. Those special teams can pin an opponent deep for a long field, or the receiving team can run one back, shortening the field.
“Special teams is where you get your start,” he said. “You throw yourself through a wedge.”
The Bills team today is deep and skilled at all positions.
“They’re firing on all cylinders,” Piccone said.
Marlon Kerner, a Buffalo Bill form 1995 to 1998, shared how he met his future wife at a 7-11 and the two have now been married for 22 years with three children.
Kerner was a third-round draft pick who suffered two torn ACLs. He has worked with many current Bills in player engagement with the community.
The Bills aren’t just looking for the strongest, fastest and most skilled players, Kerner said.
“The Bills want players with the right culture,” he said. “If not in the right culture, when adversity hits it can go the wrong way.”