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Love the scenery: Thurman Thomas, area youngsters announce Bills picks from Niagara Falls

Overlooking one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas wondered whom the Buffalo Bills would select with their fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Saturday.

“A guard? A tackle? A fast wide receiver?” Thomas speculated.

Moments later, Thomas learned it would be Weber State defensive back Taron Johnson, right before he announced the selection live on NFL Network from Prospect Point at Niagara Falls State Park.

With the majestic waterfall as a backdrop, Thomas revealed the Bills’ two fifth-round picks — Jacksonville State defensive back Siran Neal and Virginia Tech guard Wyatt Teller — and was joined by children from six local Boys & Girls Clubs to announce sixth-round pick Ray-Ray McCloud, the Clemson wide receiver.

“It’s always great to come up here and see the Falls,” said Thomas, who was also in the city Friday to announce the installation of free public Wi-Fi in the downtown area. Thomas’ 34 Group is the vendor for the project. “The buildup here in the Niagara Falls area in recent years has really been fantastic.”

Huddled under a tent on a chilly, misty afternoon at the Maid of the Mist launch point, selections were relayed to Thomas by Shaena Kershner, the Bills’ director of marketing, who wrote the names on a card after receiving the information from the team’s war room in Orchard Park.

In between draft picks, Thomas hung out in a limo bus with 12 children and chaperones from the Niagara Falls, Depew-Lancaster, East Aurora, Holland and Northtowns Boys & Girls Clubs. 

“It’s been great getting to know the kids and where they’re from, all over Western New York,” Thomas said. “The Buffalo Bills do a great job of really getting involved with the kids in the community.”

When it came time to announce the sixth-round pick, Thomas handed the microphone over to Neil Parrish from the East Aurora club to read the name. “I’ll never forget that,” Parrish said while walking back to the bus.

“The East Aurora Boys and Girls Club has spearheaded the Bills-NFL Flag and Boys and Girls Clubs of Western New York Collaborative partnership,” said Preston Teague, the Bills senior director of community relations and youth football. “Gary Schutrum, their chief executive officer, and Christina Potempa, their resource development director, have gone above and beyond to support this initiative.”

The Buffalo Bills Foundation provided grant funding to the Boys & Girls Club Collaborative of Western New York last year to provide opportunities for more than 800 children at eight different clubs to participate in flag football programs. The Bills are also working with the Buffalo Police Athletic League and Niagara Erie Youth Sports Association to form spring flag football leagues, Teague said.

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