Ezekiel Elliott's emergence as an impact player has crossed into new territory.
After millions witnessed the creative touchdown celebration by the Dallas Cowboys rookie running back on Sunday night – he hopped into one of the huge red kettles behind the end zones at AT&T Stadium, crouched to disappear and then sprung to applause – online donations to the Salvation Army spiked 61%, according to the charity.
"We don't normally see spikes like that at random," Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, the Salvation Army's national secretary for community relations and development, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday.
Typically, the organization will experience such an increase tied to an organized campaign, such as Giving Tuesday, following Thanksgiving, Busroe said.
Yet Elliott, the NFL's rushing leader, apparently struck a nerve with a significant number of viewers tuned in to NBC's national telecast of the Cowboys' 26-20 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Busroe said the increase was measured from 9:30 p.m. ET on Sunday through 10:30 a.m. on Monday.
Elliott, who set the franchise's rookie record for rushing TDs (13) on a 2-yard run in the second quarter, had planned before the game to use one of the kettles as a prop if he scored a touchdown – which, naturally, drew a 15-yard penalty as an excessive celebration.
But clearly turned that penalty into a positive.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said after the game that he didn't approve of the celebration because it drew a penalty, but seemed willing to cut the rookie some slack as he noted the inconsistency in NFL rules that don't penalize the "Lambeau Leap" by Packers players in Green Bay.
Elliott, who rushed for a season-high 159 yards against the Bucs, pledged after the game to match whatever fine he drew from the NFL with a donation to the Salvation Army. A suddenly benevolent NFL announced Monday that it won't fine Elliott for the gesture, but here's to hoping that Elliott will still drop some bucks on the Salvation Army.
Regardless, he's already made a difference by inspiring others to donate.
Said Busroe, "As of today, he is our favorite Cowboy player."