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Wilson also earned the respect of his players.

Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas struggled with his emotions when discussing Wilson.

“With Mr. Wilson’s passing today, it hurts,” Thomas said. “So I’m going to miss him, without a doubt. He used to call me his favorite son.”

Wilson’s Bills have never won a Super Bowl. They came close in the early 1990s, when the Levy-coached and Jim Kelly-quarterbacked teams won four consecutive AFC championships, but lost each time.

The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999 and their 14-year postseason drought ranks as the NFL’s longest active streak.

Running back Fred Jackson said Wilson’s death provides the team new focus to end that drought.

“We want to continue to cement his legacy,” Jackson said. “We want to honor him, and a great way to honor him is going out and winning a lot of football games.”

Wilson never lost his sense of humor.

In 2010, with the Bills 0-5, Wilson began an interview with The Associated Press with an apology. “I want to apologize for this phone system,” Wilson said, with a familiar chuckle. “It’s almost as bad as my team.”

The future of the team is now in the hands of Brandon and Wilson’s second-in-command, Bills treasurer Jeffrey Littmann. For the meantime, the Bills are expected to be placed in a trust before eventually being sold.

Wilson expressed no interest of leaving the team to his family. He is survived by wife Mary, daughters Christy Wilson-Hofmann, who serves as a Bills consultant, and Edith Wilson. There’s also niece Mary Owen, who serves on several NFL committees while working as the team’s executive vice president of strategic planning.

Kelly has expressed interest in buying the franchise and has previously said he’s assembled a group of investors.

Kelly’s health, however, has become an issue this week. He is expected to have surgery for a second time in a year following the recurrence of cancer that his wife described as aggressive and “starting to spread.”

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is also considered a candidate to purchase the Bills and keep them in Buffalo.

That doesn’t remove the possibility of outside interests making offers and relocating the team to larger markets such as Los Angeles or nearby Toronto.

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