Miller has written a definitive history of the AFL's Bills,
entitled "Rockin' the Rockpile -The Buffalo Bills of the
American Football League". The book has an insightful
foreword written by Billy Shaw. In it Shaw expresses
seldom-published emotions felt by AFL players and fans alike,
regarding the special nature of the league that was the genesis
of modern professional football. The foreword is
reproduced below, courtesy of author Jeffrey Miller and the
publisher, ECW PRESS. For information on purchasing
FOREWORD to ROCKIN' THE ROCKPILE
(Billy Shaw was
a perennial All-AFL selection during
his nine-year career with the
Buffalo Bills, and is the only member of the Pro Football Hall
of Fame to have
played his entire career in the American Football League.)
It was a hot August day in Canton, Ohio, in 1999. As I
stepped to the podium at the center of the Pro Football Hall of
Fame Enshrinement Ceremony stage, all sorts of thoughts raced
through my mind. Looking out and seeing my family in the
audience reminded me that nothing I'd accomplished would have
been possible without their love and support. Seeing my former
teammates looking back at me with admiration in their eyes
humbled me in a way I can't describe. Friends from my past and
present called my name and waved to let me know they were there.
And fans I'd never even met traveled from Western New York to
Canton to show their support too. All
I could think was, "Oh, what a lucky man I am."
Stadium, December 2, 1962
Photo by Robert L.
Smith, Orchard Park, NY
Of course being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
is the highest honor a player can ever hope to achieve. But for
me - the only player elected to the Hall of Fame who played his
entire career in the American Football League - it was more than
personal recognition. I truly
felt that day that I was there not just to accept the honor
bestowed upon me, but to share my
moment in the sun with all my former teammates and with all
those who like me grew up in the AFL. My
nine seasons with the AFL's
provided me with the fondest of memories and lasting
friendships, and reinforced my belief that if you work hard and
have the will to succeed, nothing is impossible.
My football odyssey in Buffalo began in
I was drafted by both the Bills in the AFL, and the Dallas
Cowboys in the National Football League, I chose Buffalo because
the Cowboys wanted me to play linebacker. The Bills, to my
delight, wanted a lineman. To some it probably didn't make much
sense for a kid from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to shun the
opportunity to play in Dallas in the established NFL, but
Ralph Wilson and his staff convinced me otherwise.
It was the right decision and
one I've never regretted.The AFL gave young players a chance to play and sometimes
an 'NFL castoff'
a second chance to prove he could play. My
friend and former teammate,
Kemp, bounced around in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers
and New York Giants prior to joining the
(San Diego) Chargers. In his
first year in the AFL, he led the league in passing.
What a break for the Bills when
we were able to get Jack off the Chargers' waiver wire.
Although the AFL was perceived as a pass-happy league
with little defense, that wasn't always the case.
In point of fact, in Buffalo, we
were primarily a running team with a strong defense.
But with Kemp throwing to the
Elbert "Golden Wheels" Dubenion, Glenn Bass and
Ernie Warlick, we could light it up with the best of them.
The Bills' defense of my era was more than outstanding.
Guys like Tom Sestak, Mike
Stratton, Ron McDole and Butch Byrd could have played in any
league. There is no denying, however, the league as a whole
preferred to play a wide-open style of football. And as history
now proves, fans preferred the AFL's brand of football as
evidenced by today's wide-open offensive attacks.
As a player in the AFL, you not only represented a team,
you represented an entire league. You were a member of a
football fraternity that was unique. Constantly
compared to the older, more
established NFL, the AFL, was looked at as "the other league".
In fact, as I understand it, "the other league"
phrase was a description the AFL owners bestowed upon themselves
in 1960 when
Lamar Hunt, Ralph Wilson, and a handful of other
entrepreneurs formed the league. Whatever its roots were, the
phrase, like the constant comparison to the older league, only
served to strengthen the bond felt by AFL players. When the NFL
said, "Jim Brown", the AFL countered with "Cookie
Gilchrist". When the NFL said, "Charley Taylor”,
the AFL offered "Lance
Alworth". We had pride in ourselves, our team and our
league. It was a football family affair.
Bills’ first championship team in 1964, I remember homemade
signs decorating the crumbling walls of War Memorial Stadium
that pro claimed, "Bring on the NFL". The fans weren't
just Bills fans; they were "AFL fans" too. And we
agreed with them. After just a
few short seasons, the Bills and several other AFL teams were
clearly the equal of any NFL team. Without a doubt, our 1964
team would have matched up nicely against any of the top flight
NFL teams. Imagine the
excitement we felt as players at the prospect of playing in one
of those first four Super Bowls.
Although the pain we felt as players after AFL losses in
Super Bowls I and II was substantial, it didn't even compare to
the jubilation we felt after wins in Super Bowls III and IV.
It was as if each and every AFL player participated
in those games, and in a sense, we did. The
Super Bowl wins were league wins -
a tribute to all that players, coaches, owners and
fans had accomplished together. To understand that feeling
is to understand exactly how I felt that day in
Canton in 1999, when I stepped to the podium.
It was a tribute to the AFL and the Buffalo Bills.