Pancho Billa's Family to be Honored During Pregame Ceremony

"We're the City of Good Neighbors...he's just a good neighbor."

Brendan Keany
September 17, 2019 - 5:09 pm

Pancho Billa (USA Today Photo)

ORCHARD PARK (WBEN) - Buffalo Bills officials are encouraging fans to get to their seats a little earlier than usual on Sunday.

During a pregame tribute, the Bills will honor the life of Ezra Castro, more famously known as Pancho Billa, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this year. Pancho's family has been invited to Buffalo from Texas for the weekend, and they'll be a part of the team's walkthrough practice on Saturday. On Sunday, they'll be invited down to the field as they'll receive game balls and jerseys.

Second-year defensive tackle Harrison Phillips formed a special bond with Pancho in the brief time they knew each other. Pancho was chosen to represent the Bills in announcing Phillips as their third-round draft selection in 2018, and Phillips says he felt grateful to Pancho for providing such a special moment for his entrance into the NFL and fulfilling his dream.

"He was just a fantastic person," said Phillips. "When he first drafted me, I felt indebted to pay it back and just say thank you for making the experience so unforgettable, but when I first talked to him and kinda said thank you, I learned about how great of a guy he was and such a great person, and we just kind of built a solid friendship from that."

Phillips added that the relationship between Bills fans and players is two-way, and he says it's genuine.

"You hear Coach McDermott, Brandon Beane and all of our staff and players talk about how much it means to play in front of our home crowd and how much we love this city - that's real," he said. "That's honestly how we feel, and that's a great example is everything Pancho did. We care about our fans."

General Manager Brandon Beane spoke about perhaps the most well-known interaction between him and Pancho, which was brilliantly recorded and shared by the Bills social media team, as Beane called Pancho to have him make the official selection of Ed Oliver as this year's ninth overall pick.

"That's the memory I'll always have of Pancho," began Beane. "We had some phone conversations, but...we all have visuals of us seeing people, and when I visually see Pancho, it's in that bed and in that accent..."

"The hair's standing up on my neck right now," he continued. "It was such a neat way for him to be able to be involved even though he was dealing with what he was dealing with, so it's a memory that I'll always remember and hopefully his family will as well."

Listen to Beane's full comments below:

Phillips said that Pancho will always be known as a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan, but that's now how he's going to remember his legacy.

"We're the City of Good Neighbors, and I think he's just a good neighbor," said Phillips. "It's more of the person he is rather than the fan he is, I would say. Any time I'm out, or I read stuff or hear other interviews of people talking about him, it was more of like, 'Oh, when I met Ezra at this;' it wasn't like the games and the tailgates, it was more of the person he was and the kind things that he did, and the legacy he left with the Pancho Packs is tremendous."

Listen to Phillips' full comments below:

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