Returning the favor: Bengals’ Dalton donates to Buffalo
CINCINNATI (AP) — Whenever Andy Dalton is spotted by a Bills fan, he’ll hear another “thank you” for helping Buffalo break its long streak of playoff futility.
This weekend, Dalton and his foundation are saying “thank you” in return.
Dalton, his wife Jordan and their foundation will donate to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo while the Bengals are in town to play a preseason game on Sunday.
Dalton became one of the most popular sports figures in Buffalo on New Year’s Eve when his 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with 49 seconds left sent the Bengals to a 31-27 win in Baltimore. The fourth-down pass eliminated the Ravens and gave the Bills their first playoff appearance since 1999.
Buffalo’s playoff drought was the longest in the NFL and the longest among the four major professional sports in North America. Immediately, Dalton began getting donations to his foundation from fans in Buffalo. He’s been thanked in person countless times by Bills fans over the months.
“I’ve heard I should run for mayor,” Dalton said . “I’ve heard I’ll never have to pay for anything in Buffalo. So we’ll see.”
It wasn’t a fad. Donations continued after the Bills lost their playoff game against Jacksonville. So have the in-person shows of gratitude.
“If I go anywhere and there’s somebody from Buffalo, they’re going to come up to me and tell me they’re a Bills fan or they come from Buffalo or have some tie to Buffalo,” Dalton said. “That hasn’t gone away since the play happened.
“It’s really cool and crazy that it’s a completely different fan base that has a lot of love for me, and obviously for Tyler, too.”
On a fourth-and-12 play, Dalton found Boyd open just inside the Ravens 25-yard line. The receiver slipped through an attempted tackle on his way to the winning touchdown, which set off a wild celebration in the Buffalo locker room.
Dalton said that as of this week, his foundation has received 17,000 donations for more than $450,000 that can be traced to the Buffalo area. The Andy and Jordan Foundation helps seriously ill and physically challenged children.
Boyd estimates he has received more than $100,000 in donations that went to a youth sports league in his hometown of Clairton, Pennsylvania.
Dalton thinks the Bengals will be warmly welcomed Sunday when they take the field for the third preseason game. The teams have deepened their connection in the offseason: The Bengals traded with the Bills for left tackle Cordy Glenn and signed linebacker Preston Brown, and the Bills signed former Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron and center Russell Bodine.
“If you’re looking at social media, I think there will be a pretty good ovation,” Dalton said.
Bills coach Sean McDermott is touched by how fans have responded to Dalton, and also by how the Bengals quarterback is giving back to Buffalo.
“What a strong moment,” McDermott said. “It gives me chills just to think about it. So many times … you get, ‘Hey, this is this team and that team,’ and you kind of get on your own individual islands and everyone’s on their own island and team.
“But what a great testament to paying it forward and what Andy and his wife have decided to do and give back to our community that gave to them.”
FOCUS ON LINE: The right side of the Bengals’ offensive line struggled against the Cowboys last week, but coach Marvin Lewis was upbeat about it Wednesday, saying the line overall is much better than a year ago.
“I feel really good where we are, no doubt about it,” Lewis said.
MUM ON EIFERT: Lewis declined to tip his hand whether tight end Tyler Eifert would make his preseason debut in Buffalo. He had another back procedure last season and wasn’t cleared to practice when training camp opened. Eifert was one of only three active Bengals who didn’t get into the game at Dallas.