"Go Bills 25 hours a day, 8 days a week." That is the saying that kept Bart Upchurch alive after a deadly car accident nearly took his life.
Upchurch has always been a diehard Bills fan. Born and raised in Greenville, North Carolina, Upchurch developed a deep love for the Bills when he was in 6th grade.
"I became a Bills fan when we drafted Don Beebe," said Bart. "I fell in love with them. I loved their style of play."
Upchurch, the founder and creator of the Bills Backers of Greenville chapter has always been motivated to share his love for the Bills with everyone he meets. His saying, "Go Bills 25 hours a day, 8 days a week," was the motto of his friends and Bills Backers members.
"The fans and the team have so much more passion than any other fans or players in the NFL," said the die-hard Bills fan. "We may as well add extra time. I figured that Bills fans deserve another day and another hour of being fans."
In 2007, Bart was a victim of a drunk driving accident. He broke 27 bones throughout his body, lost all vision in his right eye and was in a coma for a month.
"After being in a coma with breathing assistance, they told my family that if I did not start breathing on my own, they were going to have to make a decision," said Bart.
A miracle happened when Upchurch regained strength and pulled out of the coma. Confused and not knowing who close family or friends were, Bart tried his best to regain his memory.
"I didn't know who anyone was. I didn't know what year it was, and everyone was quizzing me each day. I was out of it."
Upchurch worked each day to regain his memory. Nothing seemed to work. One day, his brother came to visit him, wearing one of his Buffalo Bills shirts. Bart immediately recognized the Bills logo and mouthed, "Go Bills 25 hours a day 8 days a week!"
"As soon as I recognized the logo, my brother ran to the doctors to tell them what I knew," said the motivated fan. "My family brought to the hospital all of my Bills jerseys and memorabilia. My friends and family decorated my hospital room with Bills posters, pictures and jerseys."
As time progressed, Upchurch started to regain his memory. His family would quiz him on the Bills roster. They would name him a number and he would spout of the player. He was spot on.
"My brother would quiz me every day on the player's numbers," said Bart. "In order to get my memory back, repetition helped the most."
Today, Bart is fully recovered. He carries his Bills pride with him each day, wearing a charging Buffalo eye patch over his eye he lost vision in.
Upchurch's story and dedication to the Bills has been an inspiration to fans across the nation. This offseason, ESPN launched the Hall of Fans competition; a contest designed to honor sports fans across the nation.
"This year, we announced the Hall of Fans which is a Hall of Fame for fans," said Carrie Brzezinski, Senior Director, Co-Marketing at ESPN. "It is right on track with our mission statement to celebrate fans each day. "Teams and leagues celebrate athletes, and we wanted to do something that was all encompassing across all sports."
Out of the incredible 1,500 submissions, Bart's story has been chosen by ESPN analysts as one of the top ten finalists. Three winners with the most votes will be chosen on Friday, August 31 and inducted in to the Hall of Fans during a special dedication ceremony on ESPN's Bristol, Connecticut campus.
"Our panelists were really inspired by Bart's passion for the Bills," said Brzezinski.
Hands down, Upchurch's love for the Bills helped him recover from an awful tragedy.
"I referred to a note that Don Beebe had written me on a football card, 'Don't ever give up'," said Bart. "Regardless of how things are, we as Bills never give up. We stick together." To vote for Bart, fans can visit ESPN's TheHallofFans.com.