As the Super Bowl approaches, one deserving 7th-grader has more to be excited about than most.
Last week, Tyler Sampson, 13, learned he was winner of the NFL's "We Love Football" contest, and was surprised with tickets to the championship game by his favorite player, Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware.
Tyler says he was completely blown away when DeMarcus surprised him with the news.
"Words can't really explain how my emotions were," Tyler tells the Good News blog. "It definitely made me feel special. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Not only will Tyler be watching the Seattle Seahawks play the Denver Broncos next Sunday in person, he and his family will also be having lunch with the NFL Commissioner, touring the NFL headquarters, and of course, enjoying a good tailgate before the big game.
The young athlete says he'll be rooting for the Broncos at the game because he's a fan of Peyton Manning.
Tyler, who was born with a congenital arm defect, submitted a video last September for the contest, which can be seen on YouTube. In it, he describes his journey as a one-armed athlete at Griffin Middle School in Frisco, Texas. The young teen is a starter for offense and defense on his football team, and has been playing the sport since he was 4.
He talks about being "underestimated" due to his disability, and how that pushes him to work harder to disprove such assumptions. He hopes it will serve as motivation for others like him.
"It tells me that it's okay to try something new, that it's not bad to tell people about you and get out of your comfort zone," Tyler says. "Hopefully they will think I am an inspiration, and won't let them give up on their dreams because dreams do come true."
Football, for Tyler, serves as a "getaway," a place to release his stress. He was one of 10 finalists selected from thousands of submissions by the NFL, and was voted on by a national audience to receive the prize along with five others.
"Tyler Sampson showed great courage in telling America his story about overcoming obstacles, and the fact that his favorite NFL player was the one who told him "never give up" made his story even more inspiring," Digger O'Brien of NFL Films says in a statement to the Good News blog. "And then it was up to the fans. And they voted for his story. And now he's going to Super Bowl XLVIII."
On the day the news broke, Tyler was told the NFL was doing a documentary about the finalists, and was mid-speech at a school pep rally when DeMarcus snuck up from behind.
After the rally, Tyler and DeMarcus spoke one-on-one, mostly about football except DeMarcus told Tyler something particularly special.
"He told me he actually has never asked anyone for an autograph," Tyler recalls. "Then he asked me for my autograph."
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