A fixture on the Buffalo Bills sideline for decades and a member of the team’s Wall of Fame, Ed Abramoski died Friday at age 88. Abramoski served as athletic trainer for more than 36 years, starting with the team’s inception.
Abramoski brought compassionate support to Bills players through his retirement in 1996. In 1999, he was inducted as the 14th member of the Wall of Fame.
“I can’t think of anybody who has done more for the Bills than Eddie,” Bills owner Ralph Wilson said at the time. “You can see how much the players care about him by how many showed up here to help honor him.”
Abramoski would return the favor later, showing up to celebrate the players he had helped as they were honored. Abramoski’s expertise played a role in their success as well.
Booker Edgerson remembers the time he spent with Abramoski getting his ankles tapped. A cornerback in the 1960s who is also on the Wall of Fame, Edgerson got to know the “friendly” Abramoski, who would take time to learn about each player as he treated them.
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“He meant a lot to the team itself, because the players – all players, every player that came into camp – he touched because he wrapped their ankles,” Edgerson said. “He always was talking. So when he was wrapping ankles, he’s talking, or they’re talking to him, or he’s answering the questions. He’s just like a counselor. I’m quite sure a lot of guys asked him, ‘What should I do? How should I do it? (What’s) the way I should do it?’
“And he was probably giving answers and solutions as to what they do. And I will guarantee that a lot of them survived training camp because of Eddie.”
Jovial, loyal, and beloved, Abramoski impacted decades of players as he prepared them for game day and all the days after.
“He meant everything to the Bills,” Edgerson said.
Born Nov. 5, 1933, in Erie, Pennsylvania, Abramoski played football growing up before he later became an athletic trainer. He worked at the University of Detroit, the Detroit Lions, and the United States Military Academy before he became the head trainer of the Bills.
He married his wife, Pat, in 1960, and they had five children, all daughters.
“They were a family of community people,” Edgerson said.
Abramoski’s care extended beyond the football field.
His Wall of Fame bio notes that he was a frequent volunteer for the New York State Special Olympics. He donated proceeds from a book he co-wrote with former Buffalo News sports reporter Milt Northrop to the Shaken Baby Syndrome Program at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. And Abramoski also was active in the Buffalo Homing Pigeon Association.
Players would tease Abramoski a bit, asking if he was sending messages to Canada. But Abramoski knew even with long days and nights during the season, it was important to have hobbies, and he dutifully cared for his birds.
“That was his second love, outside of football,” Edgerson said.
He received the International Federation Person of the Year in 2007 and found success in pigeon racing.
Abramoski was awarded in many areas of his life. His work with the Bills earned him an induction into the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 1986 and to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Abramoski was sincere with players when it came to their health, careful not to sugarcoat an injury. Rookies in particular felt they could confide in him when they were still getting to know the rest of the team. And even when roster cuts were coming up, he was always encouraging.
“He gave them confidence, said: ‘Hey, get back out there. Put all you have into it. Do the best thing you know how, and move on,’” Edgerson said. “And I think that some of the guys did overcome their problems, and (he) probably helped them stay around to make the team.”
But in a competitive business, not every player could stay. Abramoski consoled those players as well, his resounding message that life doesn’t stop at training camp. There’s so much more to live. And when needed, he would quiet and let players talk.
“He always had an ear to listen to what the players had to say,” Edgerson said.
The braces he received were secondary to the relationships and hard work that got Abramoski there.
“I knew (the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame) existed, but I never thought about it,” Abramoski said in 1996. “All I was was a guy doing my job. … I just tried to do the best I could and work as hard as I could.”