If you’re a Buffalo Bills or NFL fan, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “Bills Mafia”. Do you actually know where this phrase originated?
Buffalo, New York, native and Bills fan Del Reid is the man who first coined the phrase, which on the podcast he explains came about when Bills fans were poking fun at NFL Insider Adam Schefter over 10 years ago.
Del joined this week’s episode of “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” to talk about how he has used his platform to create his company 26 Shirts, which donates to families in need and charitable organizations.
Del Came up with the Idea for 26 Shirts as his Social Media Platform Grew
“I had already been toying around with the idea of selling T-shirts that were timely … I told my friends it was really what I felt I was supposed to be doing”--Del Reid
After “Bills Mafia” really took off, Del saw his social media following grow significantly. As a result, it was common for people to reach out to him and ask if he could share something for them.
In October of 2013, a man from Olean, New York, reached out and asked Del if he could promote a signed jersey he had of former Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Mario Williams. Del asked the man why he was getting rid of the jersey.
It turned out the man had a two-year-old daughter suffering from a form of cancer in her eyes. This man’s daughter had already had one eye removed and was undergoing chemotherapy treatment on her other eye in New York City. The man and his wife had to make the six-hour trip to New York City every six weeks for treatment and checkups and needed money to help with the care of their daughter.
Del told the man that of course he would promote this raffle. But this man’s story sparked something else in Del.
At this point, Del had already been considering selling T-shirts that featured designs based on recent events in Buffalo and Buffalo sports that would benefit people in need. However, this man’s story convinced Del that he really wanted to do this.
On the podcast, he talks about how his friends and family helped him refine this idea. He also talks about how the community of Buffalo really came together to support the idea and make it possible.
Del immediately got to work on making his vision of 26 Shirts, which sells new designs every two weeks, a reality. Upon launch, 26 Shirts immediately sold 98 shirts to help the girl suffering from cancer.
A Layoff Allowed Del to Place More Attention on 26 Shirts
“I try to encourage people as much as possible to not always follow logic - follow your heart”--Del Reid
In August of 2015, Del was laid off from his job at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Instead of being discouraged, he took this as a sign.
Del says that by the time he was laid off, he had already felt for some time that 26 Shirts was his true calling.
After talking with his wife, Del decided to place his focus on 26 Shirts despite the fact he had the option to post for another position at Roswell Park.
Del immediately began to see 26 Shirts flourish. Within six months he had to hire an employee to help with a workload that was becoming overwhelming.
This past February, 26 Shirts hired its fourth part-time employee to assist the full-time employee, Del and his 26 Shirts partner.
God Has Used Del and 26 Shirts to Impact the Lives of Countless People
“When I look back at how my different my life is as opposed to what I thought my life was going to be like when I was 19, I’m so grateful”--Del Reid
To date, 26 Shirts has raised $1,125,515 in donations for families and charitable organizations and has sold over 140,000 shirts.
However, Del didn’t always see his life going in this direction. Del says that as a teenager he got mixed up with some things he shouldn’t have been involved in and saw his life start to head down an uncertain path.
Del got kicked out of Buffalo State College after a year. He then started attending Erie Community College, where he got placed on academic probation after his first semester. Del thought he would likely spend the rest of his life not doing anything of importance while scraping by.
However, at the age of 19 Del and God began to turn his life around. On the podcast Del talks about his faith journey and the impact a friend had.
Today, Del continues to serve God while making a significant impact on the lives of people and the general community of Buffalo.
What is God Teaching You?
Del has such an amazing story and has made such a significant impact on the city and people of Buffalo. However, he didn’t always think his life was going to end up the way it did.
As a teenager and young adult, he was largely directionless. However, he knew he wanted to change this and pursued a relationship with God.
A common theme from Del’s life has been taking a leap of faith.
When he was younger, he took a leap of faith by accepting God into his life. Del also took a leap of faith by choosing to place his focus on 26 Shirts instead of his previous career.
He has done amazing things with his life since accepting God into it. Beyond just accepting God into his life, Del has also been faithful to His calling. It would have been a lot easier to just post for a new position at Roswell Park and keep 26 Shirts as a hobby or let it slowly fade away.
However, Del felt that 26 Shirts was truly God’s calling for him.
Something that Del talks about in the podcast is pursuing what your heart and God tells you to do instead of what your head tells you to. It would have made a lot more sense for him to continue working in what had been his career.
We should all take Del as an example of how we should live our life.
God has a purpose for all of our lives, and at some point, we are going to hear His calling for us. It is up to us whether or not we follow this calling but doing so is part of our responsibility to God.
If we trust in God and follow His call, it might not be the direction we expected for our lives, but it is when we will see ourselves begin to truly flourish.
This isn’t to say that life will always be easy when we follow God’s call, but we will know that we always have Him with us to help us through the tough times and that He will bless us with good times. By following God’s call, we can truly honor Him and make an impact in advancing His kingdom on Earth.
Do you know what God’s calling is for you? Are you following God and your heart, or are you following your head?
2 Timothy 1:10
To hear the conversation with Del Reid about how “Bills Mafia” came to be, how 26 Shirts started, how he came to know Christ and much more, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 57.
“The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” is a podcast based out of Hamburg, New York, that was started in May of 2020 to discuss faith and its intersection with sports. Noah Corsten and Bjorn Webb co-host the podcast, interviewing both past and current athletes and coaches about how faith plays a role in their life. “The Sweat Room” is a part of Watermark Wesleyan Church’s Sports & Fitness Ministry. The podcast can be found on the website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and wherever you stream your podcasts.