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Andy Dalton’s last-minute heroics lead Bills fans to support seriously ill and physically challenged children

Brave, fearless and all agents of change, athletes will be recognized every week for using their platform for the greater good

Hard-core NFL heads have likely come across a YouTube video that features an ecstatic Isiah Robertson serenading the media after the Buffalo Bills had secured a playoff berth after the 1980 season:

I got a feelin’ Buffalo’s going to the Super Bowl
This is not the last time that Buffalo’s going to the Super Bowl … “

Robertson, a veteran linebacker, had reason to be happy. His team, coached by Chuck Knox, had just completed an 11-5 season, good for first place in the AFC East.

Fast-forward to the end of the 2017-18 season and Bills fans found themselves rejoicing again — after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s last-minute 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd beat the Baltimore Ravens and sent the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14).

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Grateful to Dalton and the Bengals for the nudge into the postseason, Bills fans flocked to the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation by the thousands, with donations in $17 increments (for every playoff year missed), illustrating the power of sports.

“I got on Twitter after the game and everyone in my mentions were Bills fans,” Dalton told NFL Media. “And a couple were like, ‘We’re going to donate to your foundation, we’re going to donate!’ ”

As of noon Jan. 6, the total was just shy of $345,000 from more than 15,000 donors.

For helping provide support, resources and life-changing experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families in Cincinnati and Fort Worth, Texas, Dalton is the Undefeated Athlete of the Week.

“It’s just been amazing to see how generous people have been,” said Dalton.

It’s another example of the power of social media, and specifically Bills Mafia, a rabid group of fans who have played a significant role in raising the lion’s share of the money, writes ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak.

“When we started Bills Mafia, the idea was to do something positive with it,” Del Reid, the co-founder and president of Buffalo FAMbase, told ESPN last week. “Not make it out about us, and do something that would affect the community in a good way.”

While the Bills’ playoff ride would come to a quick end — the defensive-minded Jacksonville Jaguars beat Buffalo 10-3 in an AFC wild-card game Sunday — recipients of the money raised should reap longer-term benefits.

“Buffalo is a city of givers,” Reid said. “I’m not surprised that the Andy Dalton [charity] has actually experienced this economic boom for them. Bills fans, Buffalonians in general, they’re givers. It’s been awesome to see it, but it’s not surprising.”

Dalton and his wife, Jordan, thanked fans via Twitter and penned a letter to the editor published Jan. 5 in the Buffalo News.

“I think I’m the hottest guy in Buffalo right now,” Dalton told The Associated Press. “According to my Twitter, I think everybody’s loving us right now.”

Mark W. Wright is a Charlotte-based sports journalist and documentarian.