Ryan and Matthew Felsen spent a day high-fiving Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, then the NFL star signed autographs and took photos with the fans.
By JOHN ANDERSON
As a life-long Buffalo Bills fan, Wellsville’s Michael Felsen knew he had to see Josh Allen play golf in California at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
After all, the drive was only a couple hours from his home, a walk in the park compared to a make-shift two lane drive into Orchard Park for a sold-out Bills game.
Mike and his wife, Jenny, were able to purchase four tickets to the event. Since they brought their oldest sons, Jack and Luke, to a PBR bull riding event in Sacramento recently, the younger boys, Ryan and Matthew went to spend a day at the golf course.
By the end of the day, the boys were not washing their hands and dad couldn’t stop talking about his new friends from a small town in California called Firebaugh.
Allen, who has given Bills fans hope once again the team will win a Super Bowl and is considered by many experts the best quarterback in the NFL, is so popular, Bills fans were having PGA pro-Am watch parties at their homes to cheer for Allen.
For the Felsen’s, they had a virtual reality seat.
During his round with PGA pro Keith Mitchell (PGA), Kevin Streelman and Arizona Cardinals legendary wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr., Allen came over and gave the Felsen boys a high-five.
After another successful hole, he did it again.
Fortunately for the kids, Allen had six outstanding finishes during the day, which meant six more high-fives for the star-struck children wearing their Josh Allen shirts.
As the day went on, Mike and Jenny started talking to the gallery. Turns out, many were friends and family of Allen from his hometown of Firebaugh. They talked to Allen’s girlfriend, Brittany Williams and others.
But when the round was over, the man of the hour came over and talked to his new high-five buddies and the Felsen’s. He signed shirts, jersey’s, golf towels and posed for photos.
Mike Felsen had a great time talking to Allen’s caddy. Which was Allen’s father, Joel Allen. Joel and Lavonne Allen fit in with a crowd and enjoy spending time at restaurants and events with Bills fans, even after they are recognized and hounded for photos.
“We were hoping to see him, we didn’t plan on meeting him. I just can’t get over how nice he was. He was so patient,” said Mike Felsen. “About a half-dozen times he came over and gave high-fives. At the end, he signed everything. He didn’t have to do that, not all the players did that, he went out of his way to make a once-in-a-lifetime memory for our kids. I’ll always be a Bills fan, but now we’ll always be Josh Allen fans for life.”
Felsen, who attended Wellsville and then graduated from Georgetown Prep before going to college, is an attorney who spent a career in the Air Force and is now retired from active duty, though he is still active in the National Guard and works as a lawyer for Center Heath, a health system in Northern California.
He said he became a Bills fan through his father, Dr. Joseph Felsen, who is known as “Doc Felsen.” Mike Felsen was a Jesuit volunteer with AmeriCorps after college before becoming a Judge Advocate General (JAG) lawyer all over the country and eventually being deployed. That volunteer work came from his parents as Doc Felsen and his wife, Florence Anne Felsen were Peace Corps volunteers who once spent 27 weeks providing free health care overseas for people in need.
In fact, Doc’s father, Irwin, was one of the founding fathers of Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville. Mike and his brothers, Greg and Jon, were known as athletes, especially with running, but Mike started standing out as a rabid Bills fan.
“I remember watching them on TV at Mary Ann Newark’s house in 1984 (most rabid Bills fans are created by watching them on TV at their Immaculate Conception School’s kindergarten teachers house),” said Mike Felsen. “I was good buddies with the Benz brothers, Marty and Bob Benz. Bob is still the best Bills fan I know, the depth of useless Bills trivia knowledge that man has is crazy.”
Then, on Sept. 11, 1988, his dad took him to a Buffalo Bills game as they hosted the Miami Dolphins. Bills quarterback Jim Kelly played, despite having the flu, and the defense shut down Miami QB Dan Marino as Scott Norwood kicked three field goals in a 9-6 win. The Bills were undefeated at 2-0 and Felsen was hooked.
He was such a big fan, he was a finalist for the Perry’s Ice Cream Fan of the Year and was selected to go on the field before a Bills game. A dream comes true. Except he was deployed overseas with the Air Force from 2009 to 2010. Jenny went and took his place on the field.
However, he did get a chance to finally get on the field 10 years later when he attended a game with 40 others from Wellsville. The jumbotron scoreboard said “Welcome Ryan Felsen and the Wellsvillians” as part of their massive ticket purchase.
But Wellsville’s Charlie Joyce, as part of his season ticket package, had passes to go on the field for a few minutes before that home game against Cincinnati. A huge supporter of Jones Memorial Hospital, Joyce gave the passes to Doc Felsen’s family. Mike and his kids got to see Josh Allen and meet Kelly who was QB at his first game.
“That was such a great experience,” he said.
The Felsen’s went to the Bills game at home this year, a miserable loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The weather and final score were dreary. But he did go to the playoff loss two weeks ago at Kansas City, one of the greatest games in NFL history.
His respect for Josh Allen continued to grow. With a connection to hospitals, he was pleased to see Allen also supports hospitals, especially Buffalo’s Oishei Children’s Hospital. Fans and Allen made so many donations, a children’s recovery wing is named after his late grandmother, Patricia Allen.
“Josh does so much for his charity and for the Oishei Children’s Hospital. I have boxes of his cereal, Josh’s Jaqs (proceeds go to the hospital) and at the Kansas City game, there was a lady who had a bunch of boxes of the cereal,” Felsen said. “Every time the Bills did something good, she was pouring it in the mouths of Bills fans!
“The day we saw Josh golfing in the Pro Am, he was wearing an Oishei Children’s Hospital shirt,” Felsen continued. “His support for the hospital is great.”
On the golf course Saturday, Felsen started noticing more and more Bills fans. By the end of the day, they broke out into the Bills’ “Shout” song.We will remember this one for a while.
“We really enjoyed the time with Josh’s family and meeting his girlfriend,” Felsen said. “Josh has a beautiful swing and he can hit the thing, that’s for sure … it was just an epic day.”