I’d seen him around the Buffalo Bills for years … in the press box, at team functions, part of alumni activities.
And, to be honest, my uninformed impression was that Booker Edgerson was a “wanna be,” a former Bill who was a marginal player and tried to belong by being associated with the team’s legacy in any way he could.
The problem, of course, was that he retired in 1969, four seasons before I began to cover the team.
Then, too, his name was noticeably absent from Buffalo’s statistical leaders in the secondary with the exception of interception returns for a touchdown in a single season where Edgerson’s two in 1968 tied him with Tommy Janik (twice), Henry Jones, Brandon Spoon, Takeo Spikes and Jabari Greer.
Worse for him, Edgerson started for six years at the cornerback spot opposite Butch Byrd, the Bills’ career leader in interceptions with 40 in seven seasons at Buffalo. By contrast, Booker had 23 in eight years with the Bills … a career-high six in 14 games as a rookie.
AS A part of the Wall of Fame committee since the early 1980s, our group represented the 1960s with six obvious candidates, a legendary trainer and a symbolic selection.
Nobody disputed the choices of quarterback Jack Kemp, wide receiver Elbert Dubenion, defensive lineman Tom Sestak, safety George Saimes, Hall of Fame guard Billy Shaw and linebacker Mike Stratton .
Eddie Abramoski, the team’s inaugural trainer who held that position for over 30 years, was also a no-brainer as was the naming of guard Bob Kalsu, who played only one season with Buffalo before becoming the only professional football player killed in the Viet Nam war.
But, circumstantially, selections moved on to other decades, especially the 90s with so many obvious candidates from the Super Bowl teams.
Now, however, we’re pretty much caught up and, this year, the committee looked back at the 1960s, specifically the two cornerbacks who starred for Buffalo’s AFL Championship teams in 1964 and ‘65.
It was difficult to ignore the franchise’s interception leader, but even harder overlook Edgerson, a shutdown corner then-coach Lou Saban trusted to cover elite receivers like Lance Alworth, Don Maynard, Charley Hennigan, Otis Taylor and Fred Biletnikoff, one-on-one.
Booker didn’t have the big interception numbers because even the elite AFL QBs were reluctant to throw his way.
Saban unfailingly touted Edgerson’s coverage skills and they were verified by committee members Abramoski, former play-by-play man Van Miller and long-time beat writer Larry Felser who saw every one of Edgerson’s games in his prime.
Thus, at a game to be determined this coming season, Booker Edgerson will become the 26th addition to the Bills’ Wall of Fame.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that team owner Ralph Wilson spoke highly of Edgerson’s involvement with the community. Indeed, 17 years ago he earned the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Distinguished Service Award for his community involvement.
The 70-year-old Edgerson retired in 2008 after 23 years as Erie Community College’s Director of Equity and Diversity.
When told of his Wall of Fame selection, he enthused, “It’s a great honor … it’s something I’m very, very proud of because I’m going to be put on the Wall with some very distinguished ballplayers.”
As for his modest statistics, Edgerson admitted, “I don’t know if I was underrated or people were looking for different things back in those days. I like to think I was a very consistent ballplayer.”
But a source of even bigger pride was his part in those two AFL titles.
“We are the only champions the Buffalo Bills had,” he said with pride. “We won the last game.”
And don’t be surprised if Byrd, who shares that distinction, becomes a future addition to the Wall.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)