by Pat Freeman
It was my first time covering the Buffalo Bills for the Criterion Newspaper and 1080 AM WUFO radio as their newly appointed sports director in August of 1995 that I met Allen.
The Bills were breaking training camp at Fredonia State College. The Promotions director at that time at WUFO was the legendary Michael Anthony who accompanied me on my first media day at Rich Stadium.
One of the first sports writers that I met was the cool tall Allen Wilson of the Buffalo News. It was not long after this meeting that we became friends. I covered both home and away games during my first year as a credentialed media person.
Allen was always the person that I bounced different ideas off in relation to the progress of our professional team. He inspired me to begin the push for the city of Buffalo high school football teams to play in the sectionals. When we started this effort, it was the inspiration of an article written by Allen in regards to the early 1990’s South Park High School football teams who questioned how they would fair in sectional play.
After reading it, I asked Allen how he felt about me beginning a push for city schools to participate in the sectionals; he stated “why not?” This was Allen Wilson, one of the finest men that I have had the privilege of knowing. I remember in 2007, I had just arrived for media day, and Allen was leaving for the day a little earlier than usual. I said to Allen “Where you going buddy, and he stated not feeling good today.” It was after that I found out he was battling Leukemia. After going through treatment he told me he was in remission, and would be resuming all his duties.
Later that year in Tampa Florida covering the Super Bowl we were going upstairs to here the Hall of Fame class for 2008, and all these national writers, radio and TV began congratulating Allen because they had heard he was in remission. He told me at that time that “I never realized how many people were familiar with me until word got out that I was sick.” I think we both realized the only way the national media could at that time keep up with our professional team was to follow what was written by the local metropolitan newspaper. Allen was well respected in all circles from the athlete, owner, fellow writers, and all walks of life because he was such a class act.
We were in Dallas eating breakfast before the Super Bowl in 2011 when I noticed that Allen didn’t seem like himself. I mentioned it to my traveling partner George Radney of the Challenger Community News that “Allen doesn’t seem like himself.” Later that year, I learned that his illness had returned, and he was at Roswell Cancer Hospital.
When I went to see Allen I ran into his wife Lisa Bell Wilson the first African-American woman to head the sports section of a major metropolitan newspaper, she was confident that he was going to be ok, and I expected nothing less from her. Allen adored her and his daughter Alyssa, and both us were very similar that way. The grim reality of time although reminds us of the ever mortality of our existence that each one of us must make our transition.
On December 3, 2011 Allen Wilson was exalted to the highest degree of ancestor, and since then he has received many honors, but for me I always look for him at the start of training camp or when the season starts. Sometimes I even have to catch myself from wanting to ask his expertise about the college draft.
One of the hardest tasks that I had since that faithful day was deleting his number from my phone and the last message he left me. Then I had to remind myself that this incredible friend was still with me in my heart. I never would question the will of our creator but I miss him, and each year on the first day of the Buffalo Bills Training Camp I find myself looking for him.
Sometimes during Super Bowl week, when I see Jerry Sullivan or Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, there is an expectancy that Allen Wilson will show too. These are life’s lessons, and it falls upon us who are still here to tell the story of one of the all time greats. Allen Wilson, one of the best sports writers and most importantly, a fine person. Respect and Honor!
Pat Freeman writes for the Buffalo Criterion. If you enjoy talking about the world of sports tune into the number#1 sports show in the nation every Saturday from 4:00-5:00PM hosted by WUFO Sports Director Patrick Freeman on 1080AM WUFO radio, radio app., or via the internet at www.wufoam.com. Or catch Sports Update for clbTV (ch.20 Buffalo) and YouTube.