BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Two members of Bills Mafia are being awarded on the national stage after leading the charge to raise more than half a million dollars for charity earlier this year.
It all started right at Highmark Stadium on Jan. 16, 2021. The Bills played the Baltimore Ravens; a win which sent them to the AFC Championship for the first time in nearly 30 years.
But something else happened during the fourth quarter that led to something equally as memorable. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson got injured, forcing him out the game and sealing its outcome for the Bills.
Bills fan William Burke was one of many watching it unfold.
“That’s not how we wanted to win a playoff game, because it’s winner go home for those who don’t know, and it’s just unfortunate how it happened,” he said.
Burke and another fan, Dan Konopski, didn’t know each other at the time but both searched Jackson’s favorite charity.
It’s Blessings in a Backpack, a Lousiville-based organization that provides meals to children who need it on the weekends.
They posted on social media asking people to donate $8, in honor of Jackson’s jersey number, to show respect.
Seeing each other’s posts, Burke and Konopski connected.
“I think it was almost 100, $200,000 in a weekend and it was just crazy to wrap my mind around something that me and Dan created,” Burke said.
11 months later, Bills Mafia has raised more than half a million dollars.
ESPN, the NFL, and the charity itself noticed.
The Musial Awards also noticed. They’re honoring the two with an award for outstanding character and sportsmanship.
“All credit to the Bills Mafia, they’re insane. They do this time after time and this wont be the last time, I’ll tell you that,” Burke said. “I’m just happy I was able to help somebody, that’s what I’ve been taught since I was a kid, just help people when you can and the fact that I got to on such a big level makes me so happy.”
Burke and Konopski, now good friends,attended the awards together in November. Representatives from the charity came out from Louisville to show support.
When asked if Jackson himself recognized the effort, Burke left everyone in suspense.
“He said something on Twitter about it, but something during the show might shock you that’s all I can say.”
The Musial Awards air Christmas Day at 5 p.m. on CBS.