ADVERTISEMENT

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Every Monday like clockwork, Doug Marrone got on the phone with Ralph Wilson and talked football.

As the Buffalo Bills' head coach for only one season so far, Marrone didn't get to know Wilson like many other at One Bills Drive.

But prolonged exposure to Wilson's passion for the Bills and for football wasn't required for Marrone to develop a deep appreciation for him. Wilson, an American Football League founder and Pro Football Hall of Famer, died Tuesday at 95.

"He had a great perspective," Marrone said this morning as the NFL owners meetings concluded at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes. "I really learned a lot from him in a short period of time.

"I have so much respect for him as an American, as someone who served in World War II. And what he did as a pioneer for this league ... You sit back and say, 'Who's going to pick up that torch? Who's going to continue that legacy?' "

Within the past eight years the NFL has lost Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford and Wilson.

"It's sad," Marrone said. "It's a time that we're grieving, but it's also a time to reflect and acknowledge the greatness in all of those men.

"I struggle. I really do."