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 "2010 WALL OF FAME RECIPIENT"
EDGERSON FINALLY GETS HIS DUE

by Mark Gaughan - BUFFALO NEWS SPORTS REPORTER

Booker Edgerson HOF

 

Booker Edgerson is one of the most underrated star players ever to wear a Buffalo Bills uniform.

He's a little less underrated today.

Edgerson was introduced Monday as the Bills'
Wall of Fame inductee for the 2010 season.

Edgerson was the shut-down cornerback on the Bills' American Football League championship teams of the 1960s. The AFL was famous for its wide-open passing attacks and great receivers. Edgerson was the player assigned to cover Hall of Famers like Lance Alworth, Don Maynard and Fred Biletnikoff and other stars like Otis Taylor.

"It's a great honor," Edgerson said. "It's something I am very, very proud of because I'm going to be put on the wall with some very distinguished ballplayers."

Edgerson, who played for the Bills from 1962 through '69, will be honored at a regular-season game yet to be determined this fall. He will become the Bills' 26th wall honoree and the eighth player honored from the 1960s.

The Bills won the AFL title in 1964 and '65 thanks in part to the best defense in the league.

Edgerson was a little like the Darryl Talley of his day. The '60s Bills had a lot of stars, and only so many of them could make it onto the all-league team. Edgerson played in the AFL all-star game only in 1965, a year in which the entire Bills team was named. (Talley, the Bills' star linebacker of the '90s, likewise often was overshadowed for postseason honors.) But it was Edgerson who had the pure speed to draw the toughest assignments in the secondary.

"I don't know if I was underrated or people were looking for different things back in those days," Edgerson said. "I like to think I was a very consistent ballplayer."

Edgerson made one of the greatest defensive plays in Bills' history. It came on Thanksgiving Day in San Diego in 1965. The Chargers were highly motivated to avenge their '64 title game loss to the Bills. In the third quarter, the fleet Alworth made a 65-yard gain on a catch-and-run, but Edgerson chased him down from behind at the 3-yard line and forced Alworth to fumble into the end zone. Bills linebacker John Tracey recovered for a touchback. The game ended tied, 20-20.

 

"We were in a zone defense and we very seldom ran zone defense," Edgerson said. "It was usually man to man. Lance was going across the middle. I was coming up to pick up either the tight end or the back coming out of the backfield. I saw him going across the middle catching the ball and I said wow. I just turned and took off and said, "Hey, do what you can.' When I caught up with him, was it a surprise? Yes and no. He said that he slowed down, and that could have been true. He shouldn't have because he got caught. ... That was a turning point in our championship [season]. And it's been a big conversation [point] with me all these years, too. It's been gratifying."

Edgerson and the Bills' defense shut down the potent Chargers' offense in both title games, 20-7 in '64 and 23-0 in '65.

"As you all know, we are the only champions that the Buffalo Bills have had," Edgerson said. "We won the last game."

Edgerson starred in football and track at Western Illinois. He ran a 100-yard dash time of 9.7 seconds and had a long jump of 24 feet, 6 inches. The college's football coach was Lou Saban, and Joe Collier was the top defensive coach. Saban and Collier brought Edgerson to Buffalo when Saban took the Bills' job in '62.

Both Edgerson and Bills cornerback mate Butch Byrd excelled at pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage.

"A lot of the receivers, they don't like to be touched," Edgerson said. "They concentrated more on being touched than on getting to where they needed to get to, and that was an advantage to us. As long as I threw them off stride, I felt I had an advantage."

Edgerson finished with 23 career interceptions. Byrd finished with 40. Edgerson's selection to the wall probably bodes well for Byrd's chances to get inducted.

Edgerson, 70, retired two years ago after serving 23 years at Erie Community College as director of equity and diversity.

mgaughan@buffnews.com