Booker Edgerson took a walk down memory lane, literally, when he returned this month to the Rock Island football field where he started his path toward an AFL career.
Edgerson grew up in Rock Island, and played eight seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
He had followed his college coach, Lou Saban, from Western Illinois University to the Bills.
“He was like a father to me,” said Edgerson, who lives in Buffalo but visits his Midwestern hometown about a half-dozen times a year.
As a free agent in 1961, he had wanted to be a Chicago Bear; but, he says, owner George Halas deemed him to be “too small.”
Edgerson landed with the Bills, and roomed with a young rookie named OJ Simpson in 1969.
“We had OJ as our number one draft choice. The coach at that time, John Rauch, he wanted to make a receiver out of OJ. And OJ, he couldn’t even a catch a cold,” he said.
He says he saw guys play with concussions all the time.
“I saw a lot of them on the field. Not only were the coaches and owners denying it, the players were denying. I told them if you play hurt you’re gonna get cut anyway, because you’re not going to play well. But they were worried about their job,” he said.
Edgerson had 23 interceptions in his eight years in Buffalo.
His most successful achievement though, is personal. He is a 15-year prostate cancer survivor.
“I’m trying to get the NFL to recognize prostate cancer like they recognize breast cancer. Shine a light on it,” he said.
His mom died in February, but Edgerson still visits Rock Island to see other family members and friends.
“Some people even think I still live here. Rock Island will always be home,” he said.