What makes us become a fan? Not just a casual that catches a game on the tube from time to time, but a die-hard, face-painting, costume-wearing, super-fan? For some of us, it’s the never fading childhood dream of playing on Sundays. Maybe it’s an escape from our mundane Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five, work week. Or maybe, it’s the feeling we get – like we’re part of a much bigger family. For Ezra Castro, it was just that.
A native to El Paso, Texas, Ezra grew up nearly 2,000 miles away from New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, but one look at him and you’d think he was born on the 50-yard line. So how did a man who grew up 100-yards from the Mexican border decide that his extended family would be a football team from Western New York? Simple, really. Colors. Ezra wanted to represent a team that donned the red, white, and green – for the flag of Mexico. When he found out that team didn’t exist he decided to go with USA’s red, white, and blue (two of three Mexico colors ain’t bad either!).
In 2008 Ezra decided to up his level of fanhood. He’d strap on a custom made Lucha Libre mask, and Pancho Billa was born. Since then, Ezra posed for hundreds, if not thousands of pictures. Not once would he turn down a request for a picture, an autograph, or even just a hug. Described by many as the most genuine and caring man they’ve ever met, Ezra would later be named President of the Dallas Fort-Worth “Bills Backers”.
In late 2017, tragedy struck. Ezra’s arm went completely numb while visiting New York City after a Bills home game. When he returned home to Texas he’d visit his doctor and eventually find out the numbness in his arm stemmed from a mass on his spine. The bad news wouldn’t end there. The mass was malignant and cancer had already spread to his liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. Stage four.
In true Bills Mafia fashion, Pancho Billa wouldn’t let this slow him down. In fact, he was on a plane a short time later headed to Los Angeles to once again support his Buffalo Bills. You see, the trip was about more than just football. It’s about what it’s always been about – family. This game would be a father-son trip and with his future in question there was zero chance Ezra was going to cancel. Deciding to delay his surgery to attend the football game would end up costing Ezra the feeling in three of his fingers. To him, “it was all worth it.”
Still going through chemotherapy, Ezra would attend the NFL Draft in April of 2018 when it came to his hometown in Dallas, Texas. Backed by his longtime girlfriend Veronica, Ezra supported his Buffalo Bills within the first ever “rivalry zone” located just a few feet from the stage. When it came time for the Bills to make the 96th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Bills legends Andre Reed and Fred Jackson invited Ezra on stage to announce their pick. An amazing moment, for an amazing person.
This morning, May 14th, 2019, surrounded by family and loved ones, Ezra Castro passed away, but his message will live on. We can’t always control the hands we are dealt, but we can control how we respond to it. Ezra chose to respond like he did with everything else – with nothing but love and passion. Today the world lost a great man, but he left this world a better place than when he found it.
Mr. Castro is survived by his girlfriend Veronica Borjon; their children Ginobili (son) and Lourdes (daughter); his mother Aurora Martinez; his father Jaime Castro; and his three brothers Jaime, Zenoc, and Eli.
Rest in peace Pancho Billa. You will surely be missed. Viva Los Bills!!!
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