Notes & Quotes: Ralph Wilson, Jr.
Class of 2009 Enshrinee
Went to University of Virginia for his undergraduate degree and then to the University of Michigan Law School. He is the eighth alum of Michigan and fourth from Virginia to earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Always wanted to own a football team. In the early 1950s, Ralph and his father went together to buy a small percentage of their hometown Detroit Lions.
Originally attempted to get a AFL franchise in Miami before picking Buffalo.
Served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
One of two original owners from the AFL’s “Foolish Club.” He and Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, founded their teams in the league’s first season and celebrate 50 years of ownership in 2009.
At 90 years old, he is the oldest person ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In the AFL’s early years, helped keep the Oakland Raiders afloat by secretly lending cash to the team’s ownership.
Wilson’s daughter Linda was the first female scout in the NFL.
Wilson has owned his team longer than any other Hall of Famer owner at the time of his enshrinement.
Was a competitive tennis player and is avid fan of the game.
“I know the players, to a man, really like Ralph. They think the world of him. You can come up and just talk to him, and I think a lot of guys really respect that.” — Steve Tasker, former Buffalo Bills player
“No one wants to see the white-collar owner who’s the corporate type; he comes out and catches passes. The guy is just like one of us, down to earth. He’s like a father and a grandfather to us. He treats us just like one of his kids.” – Jim Kelly, Hall of Fame quarterback
“Ralph was special. He was loyal, he treated us fairly, he treated us like men, but more importantly he got the right leadership to coach us.” – Bruce Smith, Class of 2009 enshrinee
“A friend of mine, Judge [Paul] Borman, said, ‘You ought to see your face when you heard your name on television. ’ I was shocked. I’ve been lucky along the way. You’ve got to have a little luck — a lot of luck — in your life and I have.” Ralph Wilson shortly after learning he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
“First of all, he was one of the pioneers of football and the establishment of the AFL. His contributions to football for 40-plus years is unprecedented.” – Billy Shaw, Hall of Fame guard
“Ralph’s a person with a great sense of tradition and a sense of loyalty.” – Marv Levy, Hall of Fame coach
“Ralph Wilson’s brilliant decisions kept his team in Buffalo, changed it from a loser to a winner, built a new stadium when the project looked impossible, led the NFL in actual attendance and made pro football’s number one star happy to play in Buffalo…He has been a tower of strength in the administration of professional football.” – Football News, 1973
“Ralph has done as much or more for the league as a whole as he’s done for his own club.” – Richard Berthlesen, General Counsel for the NFL Players Association