Eighth-grader Sam Kimmel is just an ordinary 13-year-old boy from Homer City, Pa. Only Kimmel knows what it must feel like to be a member of his favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since Kimmel’s essay was chosen from among 20,000 submissions and subsequently named this year’s NFL PLAY 60 Super Kid, he’s had almost as many newspaper, radio and television interview requests as the Steelers players themselves.
On Wednesday, Kimmel approached celebrity status at the NFL Experience’s PLAY 60 Kids Day in honor of the league’s national youth fitness and wellness campaign that encourages kids to be active for at least 60 minutes per day.
Kimmel was accompanied by former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, whose own success after having been diagnosed with asthma at a young age served as inspiration for Kimmel, himself an asthmatic.
As Kimmel and Bettis toured the NFL Experience complex adjacent to Raymond James Stadium, the sight of Super Bowl XLIII, cameras and reporters encircled the pair like a pack of paparazzi.
“One by one more cameramen kept coming by,” said Kimmel. “At first it was just three, then it kept building up.”
Afterwards Kimmel was admittedly exhausted from all the attention, but said it was worth it to have the chance to sit down with Bettis, his all-time favorite player.
Kimmel, who aspires to one day become a sports broadcaster, received tips from Bettis on how to conduct himself in front of the cameras.
“He was telling me different things about being a reporter, said Kimmel. “Sitting up straight whenever you’re on TV. Look at the camera and then back to the person you’re talking to every now and then.”
When Bettis heard he was the inspiration for Kimmel’s essay, he wanted to take time out of his pre-Super Bowl schedule to meet the Homer City middle-schooler in person.
“It’s great to be able to inspire someone else,” said Bettis. “When I found out I had asthma, I didn’t think football was in the cards for me. I thought it was the end of the road. But I found out it wasn’t and I was able to continue. I know what it feels like to think that you can’t do it anymore. So to think, ‘I can continue because I see him doing it,’ is pretty neat.”
Kimmel’s opportunity to meet Bettis was just one in a long line of Super Bowl events, culminating on Sunday when he’ll have the honor of delivering the official game ball to the referee just before kickoff.
“I can’t even begin to imagine it,” said Kimmel of the thought of running onto the field in front of 70,000 screaming onlookers. “I’m a little bit nervous, but I try not to think about it. I won’t really believe it until I’m right there.”