LARAMIE -- It was late April.

The local watering hole in Lockport, New York was tense, filled with anticipation about who would be the next man under center in Orchard Park.

Baker Mayfield was the first quarterback off the board. Sam Darnold, the supposed top signal caller in the class, went two picks later to the rival Jets.

That left Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, and Wyoming's Josh Allen to choose from.

John Lang, better known to Buffalo Bills fans as End Zone Elvis, knew who he wanted all along. And with the seventh pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, his team selected his guy.

"I was jumping around. I was so excited," he said. "That's the guy I wanted."

The guy -- Allen.

"He's a big guy with a big arm," Lang said, adding that some of his buddies -- like many in Western New York -- wondered if the franchise took the "wrong Josh."

"He's a cold-weather guy with the right attitude. This is the guy we want in Buffalo. He has a little bit of an attitude. He's fit in like you'd want him to with the team and community."

The wrong Josh led the Bills to the AFC Championship game last winter. He finished second in the MVP voting after throwing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. The former Cowboy added eight scores and 421 more yards on the ground.

During the telecast of the draft, ESPN cameras cut to the raucous celebration happening outside the Buckhorn Bar & Parlor in downtown Laramie. Fans erupted, tossing beer into the air and breaking into "Ragtime Cowboy Joe," the school's fight song.

 

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A friend showed him the video clip. Lang knew one day he would have to make the trek to that very spot.

That's happening this weekend. And Lang is being joined by anywhere from 50 to 100 members of the notorious Buffalo fanbase, Bills Mafia.

"I watched and said, 'oh my God, we've got to got there,'" he said with a laugh Thursday afternoon, still six hours away from Laramie, driving through the middle of Nebraska.

Lang needed to find a weekend where the Cowboys were home and the Bills were on the road. He made a call to the Buckhorn and everything fell into place.

You've probably seen Lang on television before. In fact, that's how this whole Elvis persona was born. In 1992, he bet a friend a box of cigars he would show up dressed as "The King" and make it on the national telecast. He did -- and the local newspaper and Sports Center, where Bills fan and anchor, Chris Berman, "made fun of me."

"My section loved it," he joked. "They wanted me to keep doing it."

Lang has missed just three home games inside Highmark Stadium ever since, sporting a jump suit, cape, side burns and a guitar with all kinds of slogans painted on it. The first, "Squish the fish," in reference to the Miami Dolphins, the team Allen's Bills will face this Sunday in south Florida.

His fandom has landed him plenty of press, but it also earned him induction into the Bills "Fan Wall of Fame" in 2019 right next to the late Pancho Billa, Ezra Castro, who announced the team's third draft pick in Dallas the year Allen was selected.

How much has Lang spent on bushy sideburns and acoustic guitars over last three decades? He wouldn't venture a guess.

"My mother has been going to garage sales and getting me guitars. She always gets me old beaters that I glue back together and paint," he said. "I typically go through about three a year."

This is a special trip, but not the first time Lang has been to the Rocky Mountain West. In the 1980's, he lived in Missoula, Montana. He still has season tickets to Griz football games and makes it to two or three a year. He's driven through Wyoming, but never stopped.

That will change Friday night when Bills Backers from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and New York embark on the Buckhorn for a cocktail hour. Saturday morning, the group is setting up a tailgate -- early -- near the Rib and Chop House. After the game against Ball State, the party will move to the Cowboy Saloon.

Sunday, it's back to the Chop House for yet another tailgate party and the Bills game.

You might be wondering why Lang is making the 1,500-plus mile drive in a car and not taking a quick plane trip.

That answer is simple.

How would he bring the grill, coolers -- and the folding tables.

You should know what that means:

There's other reasons, too, of course.

Lang wanted to see the Field of Dreams in Iowa. He had to check out the crash site of "The day the music died." Surf Ballroom was on the docket, too.

Check. Check. Check.

Now, it's Laramie bound.

Lang, who works in sales as his day job, is looking forward to the gameday atmosphere at 7,220 feet above sea level. Fellowship with fellow Bills fans is an added bonus. Lang is also hoping to raise a few bucks, too. He's going to be raffling off one of his guitars, a framed "Cowboy Mafia" poster and some koozies.

The goal is to donate funds to the McCollum Family, in honor of Jackson, Wyoming native Riley McCollum, who along with 12 other US service members, was killed in a suicide bombing last month in Afghanistan.

Lang also hopes to raise money for Allen's Charity, Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo.

The big question remaining is -- will Lang show up to The War in full Elvis regalia?

"Yes I am," he said. "I definitely brought the suit."

UW vs. NIU September 11, 2021