‘Pancho Billa’ stole the show on Day 2 of NFL Draft

Photo of Ezra Castro, aka/Pancho Billa from his gofundme.com page.

Friday night was a long one for Bills fans. I sat snuggled up on my recliner waiting and watching as Bills targets flew off the board in Round 2. And if the whole process wasn’t bothersome enough – fans had to sit and watch as the New England Patriots slid into one of Buffalo’s original draft positions and drafted Duke Dawson, a perfect match for the Bills defense.

For months, fans “screamed” on Twitter about how important it was for Buffalo to go up and get their quarterback no matter what it took. “None of those other holes matter if you don’t have a quarterback,” they said.

Whether that’s true or not will depend on the success of Josh Allen and the other value players selected in this draft. Regardless, from an entertainment standpoint, the second night was awfully boring.

Earlier in the day Brandon Beane teased that he may not be able to wait patiently. He suggested that a trade back up into the 2nd round was a possibility.  That was all it took for me to commit to watching each and every pick. I was sucked in, waiting at the possibility that they may move up.  As a result I was one of the many fans who had to listen to retired players come up and troll the Dallas fanbase over and over again.

Nate Burleson gave an awkward, unnecessary speech about the city of Detroit. David Akers, a kicker, reminded fans everywhere why Philadelphia sports fans are the least tolerable in the entire country. And then, finally, hours later, the Bills were on the clock.

Photo of HOF WR Andre Reed, Ezra Castro and retired RB Fred Jackson from rochestermix.iheartradio.com.

Andre Reed and Fred Jackson are heroes in the city of Buffalo. Seeing those two walk onto stage to announce the Bills 3rd round pick would have been enough, but what came next was special.

The coverage team kept referring to him as a Bills superfan, but of course, the BillsMafia just knows him as ‘Pancho Billa’. I’m not going to re-tell the story of Pancho Billa, as amazing as it is, because you can go back and watch the segment if you want to know more.  This is about the BillsMafia, the real Bills Mafia.

Barstool released their documentary about the BillsMafia a year ago and showed what the national media already knows. The fan base is rabid and excessive. The tailgating lots are unlike any other Sunday morning party in the country.  Fans are passionate, and they love the simple things in life: burning tables, sex toys, and beer – lots of beer. I’m not suggesting that the documentary was wrong, but they missed the bigger story.

What is the BillsMafia? The BillsMafia is a group of fans who have suffered through decades of failure. They’ve sat back and bought jerseys, only to retire them to the closet a year or two later as that player flames out.

They sit through snow storms and freezing temperatures to cheer to a team pushing for another win to help them hover around .500. More importantly, the BillsMafia is a family, united by their passion.

Photo from Ezra Castro gofundme.com page.

When Pancho Billa tweeted out that he wanted to announce the Bills Day 2 pick, the fans made that happen. That can’t be understated.  I can’t speak for a man I don’t know, but to see that raw emotion on stage was truly special. The pride he felt in reading someone’s name off of an index card was so evident.

We’ve all been touched by cancer. We’ve all been faced with hardships. The support from the BillsMafia and the Buffalo Bills organization was enough to make a dream come true for a guy that every one of us can relate to in some way. While other fanbases were cheering as their “heroes” lambasted opposing fanbases, I was proud to cheer as one of our HEROES proved what the BillsMafia truly is.

‘Pancho Billa’, keep trusting the process brother, and thanks for giving us Harrison Phillips.

Editor’s babble: By now, most of you reading this know I’ve been an oncology nurse for over 40 years. So when ‘Pancho Billa’ shared his story about being diagnosed with cancer and the 2018 NFL Draft turned out to be nearby his hometown of Dallas, it was clear to him that he needed to be a part of the Bills’ draft. 

That was all the BillsMafia ‘FAMbase’ needed and sprung into action. We pleaded, cajoled and begged the Bills and the NFL to allow him to read one of the draft selections. Nobody including ‘Pancho Billa’ heard anything for months. 

So when it was announced that ‘Pancho Billa’ would be part of the ‘inner circle’ of Bills fans invited to attend the NFL Draft, most of us thought… OK, this is a great alternative.

And then the most magical thing in the world happened.

Andre Reed and Fred Jackson wrapped their arms around Pancho Billa and assisted him in fulfilling his dream. Bills fan or not, football fan or not, this moment was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen unfold on live television. 

On behalf of the BillsMafia FAMbase, we are grateful to the Buffalo Bills and the NFL for making Ezra Castro’s dream come true. I can only imagine Bills fans across the country responding the same way I did – joyfully surprised and grateful.

Photo of Ezra Castro from his gofundme.com page.

However, we have one last mountain to climb with Ezra on his journey as a cancer survivor. It’s no secret that cancer treatment is expensive. Like many families facing this growing tragedy, the stress created by trying to pay for treatment in a failing health care system can be worse the disease itself. 

Ezra and his family have created a gofundme.com page to help them pay for the enormous cost associated with his cancer treatment not covered by insurance. 

If you can find a way to help Ezra and his family, it would go a long way in relieving the enormous financial burden cancer treatment places on families like Ezra’s fighting cancer. 

Thank you, BillsMafia. You’re generosity of spirit is what keeps this old cancer nurse ‘billieving’ anything is possible when we share our love for one another.

Special thanks @RedPintoTailgate for their devotion and assistance to the cause!

10 Replies to “‘Pancho Billa’ stole the show on Day 2 of NFL Draft”

  1. This is an awesome article. Brought tears by reading it. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this “fambase” of the best fans and the best team in the world.

  2. What a great organizational move to do Buffalo Bills and the FAMbase (Bills Mafia). And to do on the weekend of Make A Wish celebration.

    Yes, I realize the Make A Wish organization is for kids fighting childhood illnesses, but this is what a true fan base does when one of their own is suffering. True class from a group that all their fans get notarized about is being drunk and jumping through flaming tables.

    This shows why Buffalo is known as Nickel City, the Queen City, but most of all the City of Good Neighbors.


  3. That’s how it Rolls in Bills Nation!
    Stay Strong Ezra @panchopower

  4. glad that pancho was able to present at the draft, i hope he beats it. but long suffering bills fans have no excuse for some of the crude, vulgar classless attention seeking acts they participate in. it is beyond embarrassing and puts bills fans in a light that is disgusting and humiliating. they should be ashamed of themselves and start acting respectably. is that where they really want be, on deadspin with brett fahrve and ray rice? how proud we should all be.

  5. While watching Day 2 of the draft, I didn’t know who Pancho Billa was or his story. But I thought what Andre and Freddie did for Pancho Villa was incredible. I can only imagine how much that will lift his spirits up as he battles cancer. I hope Pancho will beat cancer and will be able to see the Bills win a Superbowl someday.

  6. It was outstanding and thank you Bills for such a moment honoring a fan that means so much to the Bills Mafia…