One Weekend, Three Buffalo Bills

Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to share some football stories from the weekend.  They are certainly Bills-related, but not the norm for my column here. I really wanted to write this article last night.  But I just couldn’t.  I was exhausted.  The weekend was packed full of greatness, and a good bit of it included Buffalo Bills, or at least former Buffalo Bills.  It was a Bills fan’s dream!

We headed into the weekend knowing we’d be having dinner with Kelly Holcomb and family.  They have been part of my in-laws’ church since moving to the Buffalo area a couple years ago.  My in-laws had them over for dinner once and asked them if they’d come back so we could meet them.  We have kids about the same age, and as you know from me writing here… I am a Big Bills Fan.  So, they’re leaving town soon, and the only time that worked for everyone was a family birthday/graduation party we had planned for this weekend.  The Holcombs happily agreed to join us.

As I was making my part of the meal for the weekend I thought to myself, “I’m making this Skyline Chili for Kelly Holcomb!!!” Needless to say… I was excited.

So were my boys.  We play football all the time, and they couldn’t wait to catch some passes from Mr. Holcomb!

But the bonus event happened on Saturday.

Brian Moorman posing with our boysIf you read the boards here, you’ll recall that Brian Moorman had a Family Fun Event to raise money for his PUNT foundation (I forgot to ask him what that stands for….) πŸ™‚  We were given some tickets to that, and were more than happy to squeeze that into our already busy weekend.  And it paid off!

We arrived several hours into the event, and got to see some fun stuff for our boys (ages 8 and 5).  There were lots of inflatable football fun things (like you would see at Bills’ training camp at St. John Fisher starting in late July) as well as some other events, like an exotic animals show.  That was great!

But the best part was as we were strolling through the Fair, we noticed a volleyball game happening, and Mr. Hawaii was out there, along with some of the staff for the event.  In fact, as I was scanning his side of the court, I recognized another familiar face… Rian Lindell!  So we headed over to check it out.

Almost the instant we arrived, the game was over, and they began to break up and go separate ways.  A small crowd (really small… like 8-10 people) formed around Brian, so the four of us headed over to join it and meet our Pro Bowl punter.  He graciously signed some stuff for our boys, and we chatted briefly, but it was not really any different than any other public gathering where you meet someone that everyone else knows.  It was over quickly, and we were going to move on.

Rian Lindell Signing AutographsAs we were leaving, I noticed the Bills’ place kicker standing out on the volleyball court still, juggling the volleyball with his feet, much like a pro soccer player might.  I asked my family, “You guys want to go meet Rian Lindell???”  (silly question…) to which they excitedly replied, “YEAH!!!!”  πŸ™‚  So we headed over to say hello.

As we approached him, some friends of his were also heading out to say hello, but with us being the strangers, he looked up and just introduced himself.  He chatted with me, and our boys, but didn’t have a pen, so no autographs. (Until some more fans joined us, and loaned us their marker!)  The best part was that it was so relaxed!  There was no line… it felt like there should have been, but there wasn’t.  So we just got to hang out for a bit.  Our oldest son was wearing his Travis Henry jersey, so Rian told him he needs to get a new one before next season… “Get a #9 jersey!”  πŸ™‚  Ian will be turning 9 this year…. so…  πŸ™‚

Well, we hung out for a bit more fun.  Ended up meeting Kevin Jobity, as our boys were playing with his son (he’s a former Niagara Univ basketball player, and now plays in Dubai).  But before we left we thought we’d chat with Brian Moorman a bit more, just for fun!  He was standing right near our table, so we went over for a photo and just to chat. 

The thing that was so great about both these Buffalo Bills kickers was that we met was just how easy it was to chat with them.  They were happy to spend time talking with us, though we’d never met.  They weren’t in a rush to be somewhere else.  It was a blast.

I had one more opportunity to chat with Rian Lindell, so I told him that he’s pretty much a legend on our show.  On our very first show in 2005, my then co-host decided to rip into Lindell for missing a kick, giving him the nickname “No Foot”.  Well, it was hilarious, and it stuck, despite Lindell having a pretty good season that year.  In fact, we made up some “No Foot for the Pro Bowl” t-shirts!  He hasn’t made it yet, despite an even better season last year… but we keep the weekly “No Foot” Tally on our show.  So I told him all of this and he got a kick out of it.  (Ha!  Kick!)  He sent a little message to “Uncle Josh” (the originator of the moniker) as well… which I’ll post to our site later today.

Skip ahead to Sunday evening…

The family had gathered, the food was ready, and we were just waiting for the Holcombs to arrive.  It was just about time, but since they weren’t there yet, I was heading out to toss the football around with my boys and my nephew.  Right then, they show up, and the first thing my five-year-old says is, “Can you throw the football to me?”  πŸ™‚  Kelly smiled and agreed to do that later…

Kelly Holcomb tossing the ball to our boysWe all said hello, and got to know names… and I think it was a mere 5 minutes later (maybe less) Kelly was out there tossing passes to three of my kids, two of his own kids, my 9-yr-old nephew, and … me!  πŸ™‚

Mostly he threw to the kids, and as he did, I asked him questions that you’d never get to ask at a training camp meeting, or at an autograph signing, or some other public venue.  Again, it was just relaxed and informal.  We’re about the same age, with kids about the same age, so I asked questions about his family, and moving, and how he liked Buffalo vs. what he has seen in Philly so far.  (The area, not the team.)  I asked if he knew (or had played with) any guys on the Eagles before he got there… besides Takeo.  I asked if he likes moving around – getting a new start.  He said no.  “It’s getting old.”

At the dinner table, we talked with them about their various football experiences in various towns.  Did you know he played for the Barcelona Dragons of the old World League of American Football?  (WLAF, now NFL Europa… just … different.)  We talked about how he’s an Indy race fan from his days in Indy playing behind Jim Harbaugh and then Peyton Manning.  We talked about the Sabres, and how he’s a hockey (specifically Sabres) fan now, from his time here.  We talked about 400 yard passing games in the playoffs.  He smiled when remembering those… πŸ™‚

We also talked about his chances of at least making the playoffs with his new team.  I said even though I really don’t like the Eagles, if he makes the team, I’ll be rooting for them up until the Super Bowl, when I will of course have to root for the Bills.

(Hey, the season hasn’t started yet… leave me to my wishful thinking!  We’re tied for first place still!)

After dinner we went back outside to play football… this time my 19-year-old nephew joined us, and we had fun just running routes, and mostly helping the kiddos have fun playing football with AN NFL QB!!!  He was great, and just kept tossing balls to tiny people.  Even lining them up in formations, and going through a cadence.  Too fun!

So, near the end of the time, I had to get in on the action.  πŸ™‚

I lined up against my nephew and said, “Try and cover me.”  I ran an out pattern to the sidelines, 15 yards up the field (um… my in-law’s back yard…) and Kelly threw a strike right to me… but my nephew closed on it and batted it down!  (He’ll remember that one for a while!)  Kelly complimented him (I don’t think he thought my nephew could get there!)  So we went for it again.  I tried the same play, and this time… I DROPPED IT.  MY BIG CHANCE to catch a pass from an NFL QB, and I DROPPED IT!

Kelly said, “Well you gotta catch one!”  So we lined up again.  This time I beat the defender with a little move inside and took off straight up the field.  Kelly launched a 35-40 yard pass and I gave my best burst of speed to catch up… but… it was three inches past my finger tips!  ARGH!  Some NFL WR I would have made!  I think Kelly made some quip about me ruining his QB rating…  πŸ™‚  But we were going to connect at least once!

Kelly Holcomb and our boysThe final route was a little inside slant over the middle, and… a fifteen yard completion!  He hit me in stride, so I kept going for the TD.  πŸ™‚

The Holcomb family was great.  It was so fantastic to spend an evening with a Buffalo Bills QB.  (NOTE: I realize he’s an Eagle now.  But as he was leaving I said, “I know you only spent two years here, but once you wear the uniform, you’ll always be a Buffalo Bills QB to me.”  He said, “Thanks.  I appreciate that.”)  Our kickers are also great guys.  It was a blast to just get to chat with them this weekend.

After yesterday, I must say… I can’t WAIT for BILLS FOOTBALL.

And I wish I would have caught those passes!  πŸ™‚