Buffalo Bills legendary owner, Ralph Wilson passed away today at the age of 95, the team announced. Not only was Wilson an icon and steward for the NFL as we know it today, but if it weren't for him, the Raiders may be nothing more than a footnote in the history of the NFL.
One of the founders of the AFL in 1960, he first entered the pro football world when he purchased a minority share of the Detroit Lions. He later joined Lamar Hunt and the six other AFL originals who collectively became known as "The Foolish Club."
The eight original teams were the Dallas Texans (Now Kansas City Chiefs), Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers (Now Tennessee Titans), Los Angeles Chargers (Now in San Diego), New York Titans (Now the Jets), Buffalo Bills, Boston Patriots (Now New England), and Oakland Raiders.
The AFL struggled to find a foothold in its early years and Wilson along with several other owners were losing money. Determined to see the league succeed, Wilson stepped up and lent the Raiders $400,000 to ensure they would not collapse. The AFL needed all eight teams to exist. Al Davis joined the ranks in 1963 and served as AFL Commissioner from 1963 to 1965 while Wilson served as President of the AFL.
Five years after its inception, the AFL was relevant and talks with the NFL of a full merger plan between the two leagues was developed and implemented. Davis and Wilson spearheaded the AFL's climb to relevancy and the two leagues would announce the merger in 1966.
Wilson was the last of the eight original AFL owners. Al Davis passed three years ago at the age of 82 leaving a long legacy behind. A legacy that would have never existed if it weren't for the stubborn perseverance of Ralph Wilson.