Since the 1960s, York County, Pa., has enjoyed strong link to NFL’s Buffalo Bills
Hanover High School’s Al Bemiller became known nationally as Jack Kemp’s center during the Buffalo Bill’s glory years in the mid-1960s. (To learn about a Bemiller hobby during his days in York County, see the back side of his player card below.) Also of interest: Wikipedia profiles Al Bemiller and seven others with national status bearing Hanover roots and Academy Award-winning costume designer Ann Roth’s sketches exhibited in Hanover and How Hanover’s Eichelberger school morphed into ‘The Eich’.
The Buffalo Bills – yes, the Buffalo Bills – made the news twice this week in York County.
An 18-year-old New Freedom resident is leading the charge to purchase billboard space near Buffalo to show concern about this NFL’s team inability to win.
Susquehannock High School grad Ryan Abshagen is fed up with the Bills’ losing ways.
Then, Red Lion High School’s quarterback has been dismissed from the team. Chad Kelly is the nephew of former Bills quarterback and football hall of famer Jim Kelly.
But actually York County has enjoyed a connection with the Bills for years.
Hanover High School’s Al Bemiller played center on the Bills’ championship teams in the 1960s… .
Too bad Ryan Abshagen wasn’t around to enjoy those years when the Bills were the class of the AFL.
The Hanover Evening Sun and York Daily Record/Sunday News (5/3/09) caught up with Bemiller in May upon the death of former Bills’ quarterback and ex-vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp in May:
Al Bemiller hadn’t expected such a busy weekend.
Sure, there was the communion service for one of his five grandchildren, but dealing with Buffalo area television news crews was not an anticipated part of his day.
However, because he spent some of his professional football career snapping the football to an eventual vice-presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, Bemiller was a target for the media’s questions Sunday in the wake of Kemp’s death from cancer on Saturday at age 73.
But Bemiller, the center for Kemp and Buffalo’s American Football League championship teams in 1964-65, said Kemp, who came to the Bills for a $100 waiver fee from San Diego, was never someone who focused solely on football.
“When we’d go on a road trip or anywhere, the rest of the us would be studying the playbook,” he said. “He’d be reading a political book. We’d kid him about it. ‘Hey, if you spend as much time with the playbook as you do with that, we’d do better.'”
However, Bemiller, who also was the center on the Syracuse University teams that featured Ernie Davis, said Kemp commanded respect in the huddle. He said one reason was Kemp would challenge tacklers instead of heading out of bounds.
“We had so much confidence in Jack and he was a very smart individual,” the 1956 Hanover High graduate said. “Even though he didn’t look at it (the playbook) much, he knew it.”
Except, perhaps, for one memorable play against the Oakland Raiders.
Bemiller said the Bills had practiced an off-tackle play all week to use in the game, but when it came time to run the play on third down, Kemp called the play to go to the wrong side. Bemiller said he turned around to correct him, Kemp changed the play at the line and the play then went for a touchdown.
“And of course he got the credit,” Bemiller said. “He must have been thinking of some politician.”
However, once Kemp’s life veered in that direction, Bemiller said he had no doubt Kemp would succeed as a congressman, a Cabinet secretary and eventually as Bob Dole’s running mate in the Republicans’ 1996 Presidential election loss to Bill Clinton.
“He was a go-getter,” said Bemiller, a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, of Kemp. “He was such a pleasant guy and such a good-looking guy. He had it all. He had both packages. He wasn’t some dumb football player. He was a young, smart, good-looking dude. He had it going for him.
“It’s just such a damn shame it ended so soon for him.”
To read about other NFL players from York County, visit:
– Red Lion’s Scott Fitzkee ranks as York/Adams Greatest Athlete.
– York County has produced several star NFL players.
– Lineup full of sports stars with York County links.
– Former NFLer and York countian Lincoln Kennedy has not forgotten his roots..
– Names of stars from York County with pro sports links just keep increasing.
Baseball card courtesy of http://www.remembertheafl.com.