Bills players Jackson and Williams visit Lockport on Tuesday
By Kevin Prise Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Bills running back Fred Jackson is a warrior, one of the rare Buffalo players over the course of the past 13 non-playoff seasons that fans happily choose to embrace. Jackson never goes down easily, always fights for that extra yard and fans appreciate it.
That's what makes Jackson the perfect Bills player for an autograph signing, and there he was at the Niagara County Deputy Sheriff's Association Union Hall in downtown Lockport on Tuesday evening.
Jackson, along with third-year Bills safety Aaron Williams, took the time to pose for pictures and sign Bills memorabilia for eager fans and supporters for two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Jackson and Williams shook hands, obliged all requests and pleasantly interacted with the crowd throughout the session. In total, about 200 guests attended the event.
Jackson said he views building a sense of connectivity with the fan base as an important part of his role as a player and team leader.
"It's huge," Jackson said. "Fans drive our sport, so anytime you can come and hang out with them, sign a few autographs and build a fan base, that's what you want to get done. To have this opportunity is something that myself and Aaron like to jump on. You get to interact with fans, pick their brains and it's always fun to do."
Proceeds will be donated to the United Way chapter of Greater Niagara, organizers said.
Different charities such as Kids Escaping Drugs have been beneficiaries of similar NCDSA-hosted over the past two years. Deputy Sheriff's Association president Jeff Newman said these signings serve a variety of functions.
"First of all, it's nice to have a chance to bring some well-known Bills players up to Lockport, and it also gives us a chance to help give back to important charities throughout the region," Newman said. "It also helps us promote the Sheriff's Association and the things that we do, as well."
The event was officially hosted by the NCDSA Corrections and Dispatchers Union, in conjunction with the New York State Deputies Association.
Jackson took part in the first signing, on April 19, 2012, and the Lockport/Bills autograph “series” has grown to feature Bills luminaries such as Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Fred Smerlas, Joe Cribbs and Joe DeLamielleure.
Local United Way staff members were on hand to greet guests and make sure the event ran smoothly, including chapter president Carol Houwwart-Diez, Michael Oliver and Bill Jakobi. As an organization that strives to help people "from infancy until death," as Houwwart-Diez puts it, the United Way tries to get involved in as many local events as possible.
"Anything that we can do, we do," Houwwart-Diez said.
After Sunday's 23-10 loss to Pittsburgh, the Bills are 3-7 and have barely a puncher's chance of qualifying for postseason play for the first time since 1999. Still, if the enthusiasm displayed by Jackson and Williams on Tuesday night is any indication of the players' commitment to the community, fans should be comforted by the fact that at the very least, they are rooting for a group of good guys.
"Anytime you get all the fans behind you — with social media, fans tell you what they think about you — and anytime it's good stuff, you love it," Jackson said. "It motivates you. It drives you to continue doing some of the things you're doing and to work hard."