Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson passed away at the age of 95, the Bills announced on Tuesday.
Wilson, who was a co-founder of the American Football League, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. He was the longest tenured active owner in the NFL.
A World War II veteran, Wilson purchased the Buffalo Bills in 1959, bringing the Bills to Buffalo as one of eight original American Football League clubs, which included the Broncos.
Wilson began conversations with Colts Owner Carroll Rosenbloom in January, 1965 that led to the AFL-NFL merger. Under his leadership, the Bills won two AFL titles and reached four Super Bowls.
"He was a Hall-of-Fame owner, an innovator," Broncos President Joe Ellis told AM 850 KOA. "I think he along with - I think Lamar Hunt was out front on the merger along with Pete Rozelle, but Ralph Wilson was certainly an architect alongside Mr. Hunt with that. He loved the league and was very passionate about his team, a small-market team as you know, and a great advocate for Buffalo, a great advocate for revenue sharing across the NFL. He'll be missed. He was a favorite in the room among many owners."
See below for the Broncos' statement on the death of Ralph Wilson:
“The Denver Broncos are very saddened by the death of Ralph Wilson. One of the founding American Football League owners, Mr. Wilson guided the Bills with great vision and passion for more than half a century. He loved the game, and his contributions to the league as a Pro Football Hall of Fame owner will always be remembered.
“Mr. Wilson's presence will be missed throughout the NFL, and our thoughts are with his family and the entire Bills organization.”
See below for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's statement on the death of Ralph Wilson:
“Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America's most popular sport. He loved the game and took a chance on a start-up league in 1960 as a founding owner of the American Football League. He brought his beloved Bills to western New York and his commitment to the team's role in the community set a standard for the NFL. As a trusted advisor to his fellow league owners and the commissioner, Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues. His lifelong loyalty to the game was instrumental in his richly deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We are grateful for his many contributions to the NFL and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the Wilson family.”