The Buffalo Bills community is in mourning after superfan Ezra Castro, also known as “Pancho Billa,” died of cancer on Tuesday at the age of 39, according to multiple news reports.
Castro, a beloved figure for fans of the Bills, was best known for his passion for the football team and for his elaborate game day outfit that included a colorful sombrero and face mask. The Buffalo News described him as “the euphoric heart and soul of the nationwide #BillsMafia.”
According to ESPN, Castro had been hospitalized at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center since April after he was diagnosed with spinal cancer in 2017.
“Our hearts are broken as we have lost our dear brother Ezra ‘Pancho Billa’ this morning,” his family said in a statement. “We are thankful and forever grateful for all the love and support during this journey. Ezra was surrounded by family and loved ones. At this time we ask for privacy as we mourn our loss.”
The Bills tweeted a sweet tribute to Castro on Wednesday, sharing a video complied of voiceovers and footage of him.
“Some people love to go fishing, hunting, they collect art… my hobby is the Buffalo Bills, that’s what I do,” Castro says in the video. “I save money year-round just to go see you guys as much as I can every year.”
Bills co-owner Kim Pegula also shared a tribute, tweeting that Castro was “a tremendous inspiration.”
Pancho was a pillar of positive strength and energy for me and all of #BillsMafia. He’s been a tremendous inspiration for our team. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him and get to know his story. My heart goes out to his children, friends and family. Viva Los Bills! pic.twitter.com/UFBVMjMWDd— Kim Pegula (@KimPegula) May 14, 2019
Bills players are also remembering Castro on social media.
On Tuesday, wide receiver Zay Jones wrote: “Sad to hear the news about our brother & teammate today. I still remember when Pancho Billa came to speak to us the night before the Jets game. His passion & energy was unlike any other. His fight was relentless & so admirable. Blessed to have known him. Rest In Peace my friend.”
Former Bills player Andre Reed shared a similar sentiment, tweeting, “Through misty eyes,I SEE CLEARLY what @nfl does 4 people like #PanchoBilla. Football is more then a game, it’s FAMILY. The loss of this #BillsMafia member hurts, but we must keep his legacy alive.”
A GoFundMe page started in 2017 after Castro’s cancer diagnosis had raised more than $56,000 for his family members as of Wednesday.