Bills fan 'Pancho Billa,' who is battling cancer, lives a dream and announces pick

Not long after Ezra Castro, a Buffalo Bills superfan better known as “Pancho Billa,” was diagnosed with cancer last fall, some of his fellow Bills fans started a social media campaign: #PanchosPick. 

The idea was to get Castro, who lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, on stage to announce one of the Bills’ picks at this year’s draft. While Castro was invited by the Bills to be in the “inner circle” area of each team’s fans near the stage, there wasn’t any indication he’d get to announce a pick.

Then on Friday night, Fred Jackson and Andre Reed brought Castro on stage.

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Jackson and Reed, two of the most popular players in Bills history, singled out Castro as they got on stage to announce the Bills’ third-round pick. Cameras easily found the fan in the crowd wearing a sombrero and Bills wrestling mask. Reed mentioned that Castro had chemotherapy in the last week, but still made the draft. Castro clearly had tears in his eyes as Reed talked about how Castro hadn’t let cancer dampen his love for the Bills. 

That’s when Jackson told Castro to join him and Reed on stage. Castro’s fellow Bills fans at the draft cheered and chanted “Pancho’s pick!” as he walked up on stage. It was a wonderful moment.

Castro got some handshakes and hugs with Reed and Jackson, then got to the microphone and announced that the Bills would take Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. Later, Castro was joined on stage with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and posed for some pictures with Goodell and the new Bills jersey Reed and Jackson gave him.

The effort to get Castro to announce a pick started months ago.


By all indications, getting to make the pick was a surprise to Castro. As recently as April 19, Castro tweeted that he had not heard back about his wish to announce the Bills’ pick, and on Thursday he said he was still hoping for the chance. When the Buffalo News wrote about Castro on Thursday, the paper said he wasn’t expected to announce a pick.

The Bills’ site said Castro travels to a handful of Bills games each season, and he has become one of the most popular fans in “Bills Mafia.” Last year, on a trip to New York for the Bills’ game against the Jets, his left arm went numb according to the Buffalo News. When he got home, doctors told him he had a mass wrapped around his spine and cancer had spread to his liver, lungs and lymph nodes, the News said. Before he got an operation, Castro took his 5-year-old son Ginobili to the Bills-Chargers game in Los Angeles, and he told the News he didn’t know if it would be the last Bills game he would ever attend.

The News said Castro had surgery on Dec. 13 to remove the mass. And despite his ongoing battle, he made it to the draft. When the Bills went on the clock in the third round, Reed and Jackson helped “Pancho Billa” give all of us one of the best moments of this year’s draft.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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