ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Lifelong Bills fan Ezra Castro, affectionately known as Pancho Billa, fought a long battle with pancreatic cancer, which eventually metastasized throughout his liver, lungs, spine and lymph nodes. He died in May at age 39.
Thousands of Bills fans celebrated the man behind the mask this weekend starting with a memorial tailgate on Saturday.
The event took place in Hammer's Lot at 4170 Abbott Road with a tent, prayers, memories and laughter.
"I love you. I know that Ezra has always loved you," said Castro's fiancée, Veronica. "And I thank you with all of my heart. The children will remain Bills fans... Forever."
Following the tailgate, the Buffalo Bills organization honored Castro in a video montage prior to kickoff Sunday where his family was also in attendance.
"Sunday will be challenging for me to try and control my emotions and stay focused on the game," said defensive tackle Harrison Phillips prior to the weekend's events. Phillips shared a special bond with die-hard Bills fan as Pancho read Phillips' selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
"I know we'll feel him," said Bills GM Brandon Beane. "I know he's watching over us."
When Castro was seven years old, his dad—a Cowboys fan—allowed Castro a choice of who he wanted to adopt as his NFL team.
"He pretty much gave me my own rights to choose a team," said Castro in an interview with 2 On Your Side in 2017. "I really wanted a team that had a Mexican color theme, but there's not one, and I went with the red, white, and blue charging Buffalo logo over the Patriots."