Jim Ritcher, Ernie Warlick named to Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Two former Buffalo Bills were named to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame earlier this week.

A year after the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame neglected to pick a new enshrinee with ties to the Buffalo Billstwo former players made the cut in 2014. Guard Jim Ritcher and tight end Ernie Warlick will receive the honor this fall.

Ritcher was drafted in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft and was a mainstay on the Bills' offensive line through the worst years in franchise history. He was ultimately rewarded with four trips to the Super Bowl in the final years of his 14-year career with the Bills before free agency took him to the Atlanta Falcons. He started 167 games, was named to two Pro Bowls, and is a member of the 50th anniversary team.

An AFL-era weapon, Warlick was not drafted into pro football; instead, he was drafted by the military, where he played football on an Air Force base before ending up in the CFL for five seasons. When his time in the CFL expired, he attempted to enter the NFL, but a contract he had signed for $3,500 a season with the Rams following the draft was still valid, so he chose the AFL's Bills and the $10,000 contract they offered. Despite being 30 years old, Warlick averaged more than 17 yards per reception during his four-season career in Buffalo that produced four AFL All-Star nods and consecutive AFL Championships.

Warlick was also known for breaking social barriers. When the AFL All-Stars voted to boycott New Orleans in 1965, they appointed Warlick their spokesperson. Following his playing career, he joined WGRZ to become the first black sports anchor in Buffalo's history. He passed away in 2012 after many years in service in the Buffalo Bills Alumni Association.

Other Bills players in the local sports Hall are Ruben Brown, Steve Christie, Joe DeLamielleure, Booker Edgerson, Joe Ferguson, Cookie Gilchrist, Harry Jacobs, Jim Kelly, Jack Kemp, Paul Maguire, Andre Reed, George Saimes, Tom Sestak, Billy Shaw, O.J. Simpson, Steve Tasker, Darryl Talley, Butch Byrd, Shane Conlan, Elbert Dubenion, Kent Hull, Fred Smerlas, Bruce Smith, Mike Stratton, and Thurman Thomas.

Other Bills-related inductees are coaches Lou Saban, Marv Levy, and Jim McNally, along with former team trainer Ed Abromoski, general manager Bill Polian and founder/owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. The legendary voice of the Bills, Van Miller, is also an enshrinee.

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