Mar 25, 2014 5:11 PM by Dave Fields
Ownership of the New Orleans Saints reached out to the family of recently departed Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, Jr., who died at home Tuesday.
In 1960, Wilson helped to found the American Football League (AFL), which ultimately would merge with the NFL. Wilson had been in decreasingly poor health since 2011, when the Bills owner had hip surgery.
"The National Football League lost one of its visionaries today in Ralph Wilson Jr. The thoughts and prayers of my family and the Saints organization go out to his wife Mary and the rest of the Wilson family. Personally to me, Ralph was a valued friend and colleague since I first entered the National Football League in 1985," said Saints owner Tom Benson.
"Professionally, Ralph contributed so many things to the sport and the league we love. His vision and leadership first became evident when he founded the Bills and helped lead the merger of the AFL and the NFL. He continued throughout his ownership to foster the growth of our game and our league and all of us who have benefitted in this game owe Ralph Wilson Jr. a debt of gratitude today,"Benson continued.
Saints Owner/Vice Chairman of the Board Rita Benson LeBlanc also lamented the league's loss of Wilson, who was the Bills sole owner and also had been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
"Ralph Wilson Jr. was a passionate believer in the NFL and the integrity of the shield. The vision, drive and dedication Mr. Wilson embodied made him a living legend and I feel privileged to have known him. My heart and prayers go out to his wife Mary Wilson, his daughters and his niece Mary Owen as they continue his legacy and his compassion through football, philanthropy and community," said the younger Benson.