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Bills founder Ralph Wilson could claim he saw every Pro Football Hall of Famer play


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Here's perspective.

Ralph Wilson was 91 years old when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Each year, the Hall of Fame holds an exclusive event. The Ray Nitschke Luncheon, where all of the inductees tell war stories for the incoming members, permits only Hall of Famers in the room.

"They would all get up and tell their lies and embellish their careers," Hall of Fame vice president Joe Horrigan said today at the NFL owners meetings. "Ralph kind of sat back until the end and said, 'You know, I'm the only guy in the room that saw all of you guys play,' as if to challenge them about telling the truth.

"They gave him a standing ovation."

Horrigan is a South Buffalo native. He was a Bills ballboy in 1968 and 1969. His father covered the Bills for the Buffalo Evening News before working for the American Football League and then the Bills.

Wilson, an original founder of the American Football League, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Canton was the site of rare, recent Wilson appearances.

He attended only one Bills game the past two seasons, but he went to Canton in 2012 to cut the ribbon for the research facility he donated $2.5 million to construct. He returned last year for a golden anniversary Hall of Fame photo.

"I'm so happy he got elected to the Hall of Fame when he did," Horrigan said. "He certainly deserved it long before it happened, but he was so proud of it.

"He would come to the Hall since he got elected, and his legs really couldn't support him. But when we took a team photo, he wasn't going to sit. He wanted to stand. He wanted to stand like the rest of the guys stood. He stood in the sun and refused to wear a ballcap because nobody else was.

"He just wanted to be one of the guys."

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.