CINCINNATI — The Bengals' AFC Championship win was a dream come true for so many fans, but the moment was bittersweet for Kansas City resident Allison Gilbert.
Gilbert, a Chiefs fan, married Northern Kentucky native Jason Martin in 2018. Despite living in Kansas City, Martin stuck true to his roots and was a dedicated Bengals fan.
"One of the things that we used to do all time were go to the Chiefs-Bengals games at Arrowhead," Gilbert said.
The two went to every game as a house divided until Martin's death one year ago.
When Cincinnati came to Arrowhead this postseason, Gilbert knew she had to find a way to bring him — creating a cutout of his head to hold throughout the game.
"I was a little nervous about it, to be honest," Gilbert said. "There were four of us going to the game, all Chiefs fans, dragging in this big Bengals face, but it went really well."
When the Bengals won, Gilbert searched for a Cincinnati fan that could bring her husband's cutout with them to Los Angeles.
"I was like, I wonder if there's someone in Cincinnati that would be willing to take this so that I could see my husband's face in the crowd and know that he also got to go not just the AFC playoff game, but the Super Bowl — which would have been his dream," Gilbert said.
Gilbert's post in a Facebook group caught the attention of Bengals fan Aaron Denton. Denton's brother, Rod, died suddenly a few years ago.
"He was one of those guys," Denton said. "He was on every Bengals message board chat group. I mean, (he) talked about the Bengals not just in-season, but year-round — loved them even when they were really hard to love."
He jumped on the chance to help Gilbert, but soon learned SoFi Stadium does not allow posters or cutouts. Instead, he offered to put Martin's face on a shirt.
"I had the idea to just have two t-shirts made — one for Allison's husband and one for my brother — and wear him to the game," Denton said.
The two soon discovered they were not the only fans who hoped to see their loved ones represented at the Super Bowl. Several people responded to Gilbert's post with pictures or anecdotes about their favorite Bengals fans who will not get the chance to celebrate the team's success.
In hopes of bringing as many fans to the game as possible, Denton asked people who are going to Super Bowl LVI to participate in #NoFanLeftBehind. He ended up printing 800 shirts.
You'll likely see them tomorrow: #NoFanLeftBehind is making sure every Bengal fan who couldn't be here to see the team's historic run to the Super Bowl is represented.— WCPO 9 (@WCPO) February 13, 2022
You can read the back story on this movement here: https://t.co/3kwB2y9N4x pic.twitter.com/SJyyVps4oi