PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim Pegula watched training camp practice from the front seat of the family’s SUV on Sunday in making an encouraging and surprising first public appearance in 14 months since experiencing a debilitating cardiac arrest.
And there could be more appearances to come, according to 29-year-old daughter Jessica Pegula. The third-ranked player in women’s tennis referred to her mother’s attendance as camp as the latest baby step in her recovery, and a reflection of her desire to be more active.
“I think it’s kind of the next step for us as a family — how much this year she wants to be around all the action and the games,” Pegula said in Washington, D.C. where she is preparing to compete in the DC Open, which starts on Monday. “I mean, I know she does, but it’s almost like if we’re ready for that to happen.”
Kim Pegula could be seen through the side window of the vehicle, which was parked at the foot of the south end zone overlooking the team’s main practice field.
Remaining in the SUV through the end of practice, she was kept company mostly by her son, Matthew, with her husband Terry Pegula regularly stopping by to chat.
Pegula was most recently described as still dealing with significant language and memory issues after going into cardiac arrest in June 2022 shortly after celebrating her 53rd birthday. She spent extensive time being treated in the hospital before being released to begin what is regarded as a lengthy rehab process.
Though coach Sean McDermott stopped by to great Kim Pegula before practice, and quarterback Josh Allen met with her after the session, several players were unaware of her presence.
“I did not see her, but that’s awesome,” safety Jordan Poyer said.
It’s unclear how many fans were aware of her presence either, as the Bills were unable to make any public address announcements because of a power failure that affected the entire St. John Fisher University campus and much of the surrounding area of Pittsford, New York.
Though Jessica Pegula had not had a chance to speak with her mom following practice, she received a glowing status report from her father who said, “she was very happy to be there.”
“I’m glad she’s able to kind of go out and enjoy things more,” Pegula said. “It’s been a tough year. It’s nice for her and nice for everyone around to just see that she’s doing well.”
Arriving in Buffalo earlier this week, her appearance at the Bills training camp facility in suburban Rochester, New York, also represented a homecoming of sorts for Pegula, who grew up in nearby Fairport.
From South Korea, Pegula was left orphaned as a child before being adopted at age 5 by Ralph and Marilyn Kerr, who brought her to the U.S.
She is Pegula’s second wife, after the two met in a town south of Buffalo and were married in 1993. The Pegulas made their fortune in the natural gas industry and returned to western New York by purchasing the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in 2011 followed by buying the Bills three years later following the death of franchise founder Ralph Wilson.
Before falling ill, Pegula was actively involved in player matters as well as serving on various NFL committees. She held the title of Bills president before her husband took over the role as part of an executive management shakeup two weeks ago.
Terry Pegula grew emotional last month in referencing his wife during a ground-breaking ceremony for the Bills new $1.54 billion stadium, which is being constructed across the street from the team’s current facility and scheduled to open in time for the 2026 season.
While she was not present, Terry said he cheers for her every day, and then cited the Bellamy Brothers’ song “You’re My Favorite Star,” by saying, “And Kim, you are my favorite star.”
AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed from Washington.