The Buffalo Bills Greatest Team: 1965 AFL Champions

By Jeff Nixon
Dec. 26, 2015

I know there will be a lot of fans that disagree with the title of this article, but there’s no denying that the 1965 Buffalo Bills were a great team – and the last Bills team to win a league championship.

Our local alumni organization honored that team on September 12, 2015 at our annual VIP Party, Tent Party and Golf Tournament. You can see the highlights of that party and the golf outing . 

A lot of the players from that team are no longer with us, but the memories of what they did 50 years ago today will live on forever.

In his assessment of how the Bills defeated the San Diego Chargers 23-0 on December 26, 1965 Jack Kemp said “We won with defense and a never-give-up attitude in ’65. We won with character in ’65, and that’s what made that championship so special for all of us.”

We hear the word “character” used a lot when players define teams that have won championships. The dictionary defines character as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.”

Some might say that the Bills teams that went to the Superbowl four consecutive years were better teams, but in the end…..they never brought home a championship. That’s something only the ’64 and ’65 teams can claim. The reason I think it was the best team in history is because of how they did it – shutting out one of the most prolific offensive teams in history, and doing it without some of their best players who were injuried. That says a lot about the character of a team.

There were some real characters on the Bills 1964 & 1965 Championship teams. Guys like Paul McGuire, Billy Shaw, Tom “Tippy” Day, Jack Kemp, Cookie Ghilchrist, Butch Byrd, Booker Edgerson, Mike Stratton, Charley Ferguson, Ed Rutkowski, Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion, Tom Sestak, Jim Dunaway, Ron “Dancing Bear” McDole, Harry Jacobs, John Tracey, George Saimes, Hagood Clarke, Ernie “Big Hoss” Warlick, Paul Costa, Dick Hudson, Daryl Lamonica, Al Bemiller, Charley Warner, Dave Behrman, Stew Barber, Wray Carlton, Bo Roberson, Henry Schmidt, Tom Janik, George Flint, Glen Bass, Billy Joe, Pete Gogolak and we can’t forget the Coach of that team – Lou Saban and his assistant Joe Collier. You can see the entire roster at the bottom of this article.

Here are some highlights from that season: 

You can read all about the mental and moral qualities of those guys and how they beat the Chargers – a team that had beaten them earlier in the season 34 – 3, in . It sheds light on how Paul McGuire found a unique way to motivate the team before the game.

I was drafted by the Bills in 1979 - 14 years after that team had won the Championship - and I didn’t really understand how special that team was until I retired in 1985 and started to get involved in our local alumni group. Tom Day was one of my mentors before his passing in 2000. He was part of the Bills' defense that did not allow a rushing touchdown for 17 consecutive games over a portion of the 1964 and 1965 seasons. Tom was tougher than nails, brutally honest and had more character in his pinky than I had in my whole body. He showed me what it meant to be a good role model in the community and what it meant to honor the “Legacy” of the guys that came before me.

There are so many other guys from that team that have helped me on my journey through life. Some of them have passed away, but their words and deeds will always be remembered and I will always do my best to carry on their legacy. What they have done off the field is significantly more important than what they did on the field.

They are the definition of real character.

1965 Buffalo Bills in alphabetic order:

 Joe Auer

Stew Barber

Glenn Bass

Al Bemiller

Butch Byrd

Wray Carlton

Hagood Clarke

Paul Costa

Tom Day

Elbert Dubenion

Jim Dunaway

Booker Edgerson

Charley Ferguson

George Flint

Pete Gogolak

Bill Groman

Floyd Hudlow

Dick Hudson

Harry Jacobs

Tom Janik

Billy Joe

Tom Keating

 Jack Kemp

Daryle Lamonica

Bill Laskey

Paul Maguire

Ron McDole

Dudley Meredith

Pete Mills

Joe O'Donnell

Bo Roberson

Ed Rutkowski

George Saimes

Henry Schmidt

Marty Schottenheimer

Tom Sestak

Billy Shaw

Bobby Smith

Donnie Stone

Mike Stratton

Gene Sykes

Jack Tracey

Ernie Warlick

Charley Warner

 Head Coach: Lou Saban

Assistant Coaches: Joel Collier, John Mazur, Jerry Smith

Head Trainer: Eddie Abramoski

Equipment Manager: Tony Marchitte