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Bills Draft Highlights – AFL Inaugural Season

The Buffalo Bills franchise was officially established on October 28, 1959. The Bills played their first season of professional football in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League. The AFL was formed to be a direct competitor to its market rival, the National Football League. It wasn’t until 1970 that the AFL-NFL merger would take place, making all AFL teams up to that point the NFL’s newest members.

Despite their reputation as a perennial poor-average NFL franchise with sharp bursts of relative success here and there, the Bills of the AFL were highly successful. The franchise proved to ultimately be one of the most successful in the AFL pre-Super Bowl era. But the earliest days of that league tend to be forgotten today. Its first draft was held in 1960 at the Nicollet Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Of the players selected by the Bills in the inaugural AFL Draft, many of them didn’t end up playing for the franchise. Some of them were also selected in the NFL Draft, choosing ultimately to go that route. Others were soon traded within the AFL. But there were a few names selected who proved important to the franchise’s inaugural 1960 season. Let’s make a trip on the way back machine and take a look at who they were.

Richie Lucas

Richie Lucas of Penn State University was assigned to the Bills as a territorial pick. Lucas had been an excellent quarterback at Penn State. He won the Maxwell Award in 1959 and was also named a consensus All-American that same year. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Lucas played with the Bills for the first two years of the franchise in 1960 and 1961. Though had excelled at quarterback at the college level, he mostly played the left halfback position during his time with the Bills. Of the 11 games he started in 1960, only one of those starts was at the quarterback position.

The game of football was played in a much different fashion than it is today. It wasn’t unusual for players to fulfill a role of more than one position in those days. Lucas was listed as a quarterback, defensive back, and halfback for the Bills. In his two seasons with the franchise, he put up four touchdown passes, two rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown, and two interceptions.

Chuck McMurtry

Chuck McMurtry was a first-round selection for the Bills in the 1960 AFL Draft. McMurtry played his college ball at Whittier College in Whittier, California. His presence was significant in the Bills’ inaugural season. That season, he put together three sacks at the defensive tackle position and was named to the inaugural All-AFL team.

The following season, McMurtry was equally as effective, putting together a season that sported three-and-a-half sacks and was selected as an AFL All-Star. The 1960 and 1961 seasons would be his best, though he would play the following two seasons with the Oakland Raiders before retiring from professional football.

In 28 games with the Bills, McMurtry started at the defensive tackle position in 27 of them. He was one of the defining players in the first few years of the franchise. He’s also significant for being one of only five players from Whittier College ever to play in either the AFL or NFL, though ten players have been drafted from the college.

Tom Day

Tom Day was selected in both the AFL and NFL Drafts in 1960, by the Bills and the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals (now Arizona) respectively. Day opted to play for St. Louis in the 1960 season but came to the Bills for the 1961 season and stayed through the 1966 season. He played his final season of professional football with the Bills in 1968 after having played the ’67 season with the San Diego Chargers.

Day is vitally important to the history of the Bills franchise because he was a member of the back-to-back AFL Champion teams. Known for playing defensive end in those elite years, he began his career as a right offensive guard. The former North Carolina A&T Aggie was named second team All-AFL in the championship season of 1965. He recorded five-and-a-half sacks and an interception that season.

Day also accomplished a lot outside the realm of his own football career. He was awarded the NFLPA Award of Excellence in 1997 for the work he did helping to take care of former professional football players who had been left indigent in the years following their playing careers. He was remembered as a great person by all who knew him.

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