Every little boy who plays football — or even thinks about playing football — dreams of doing what Tom Brady, Eli Manning and friends will do Sunday.
Play on a team that makes the Super Bowl.
Former University of Kentucky standouts Marty Moore and Jared Lorenzen are among the select few who lived the dream.
Moore got to play in two Super Bowls (XXXI and XXXVI), winning one and losing one, as a linebacker and special-teams stalwart for the New England Patriots.
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Lorenzen was Eli Manning's backup at quarterback when the New York Giants foiled New England's bid for a perfect season in Super Bowl XLII.
On the day when Moore and Lorenzen's former teams face off for the NFL championship, I asked them what it is like to be part of the American sports extravaganza that is the Super Bowl as a player.
The experience starts with a mad scramble to get tickets for family and friends.
"Every NFL player, whether you made it (to the Super Bowl) or not got two tickets," said Lorenzen, who went with the Giants to the Super Bowl after the 2007 season. "When you are in the game, you could buy 13 more. So you're buying them for family.
"You've got to set up, first of all, who gets the tickets. Then you've got to set up how you are going to get the tickets to them. Then you got to get their flights, their hotels, their cars. It gets super involved."
Moore said that before he made his first Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots after the 1996 season, then-Pats Coach Bill Parcells held a team meeting in which an FBI agent warned the players not to sell their tickets "to guys who would approach us in the parking lot with suitcases full of money looking to buy them."
There are usually two weeks between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. The first week, when the Super Bowl teams are still in their home cities, is when the coaches install their game plans.
By the time the teams fly to the destination of the SB at the start of the second week, it's hard to fully concentrate on football.
"We got there (Glendale, Ariz.) the first day, and the media had helicopters following us all the way to our hotels," Lorenzen said. "When you get there, the media is there. And they never leave. It was insanity."
Moore played in two Super Bowls in New Orleans, one under Parcells and the other (after the 2001 season) with Bill Belichick as head coach. Early in the game week under both coaches, Moore said, the Patriots players had no curfew.
"The first couple of nights, that's when the guys can go out," he said. "We didn't have curfew the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. That's when they wanted the guys to blow off their steam."
The official Super Bowl Media Day has become famous for being bizarre. Lorenzen got all three rings of the circus.
A female "reporter" (Ines Gomez) from a Mexican TV show came decked out in a wedding gown complete with veil. She asked, in order, Patriots QB Brady, his backup Matt Cassel, the Giants' Manning and finally Lorenzen to marry her.
"I was the fourth person she asked. I'm kind of (hacked) off I was fourth," Lorenzen said with mock hurt. "I told her 'I'd love to, but I'm already married.'"
The night before
Moore's first Super Bowl came at the end of his third season in the NFL. He went to bed on game eve knowing he would for certain be on the field for the contest's very first play: He was a member of both New England's kickoff team and its kickoff return unit.
"I slept off and on," Moore said. "It was not a real, good, restful night of sleep but I did sort of nap off and on all night."
When you ride the team busses to the stadium to play in your first Super Bowl, "you are very nervous," Moore said. "When you run out of that tunnel, as great as it was doing that at UK, this was 100 times better. The adrenaline pumping when you take the field, it's incredible."
That pre-game rush can come at a cost. Before the first quarter of his first Super Bowl was over, Moore said his body felt like he had run a marathon.
"I was just drained," he said. "I'm like 'What's going on?' ... You've just got so much adrenaline pumping and all that acid builds up in your muscles, I felt like I needed an IV."
New England lost Super Bowl XXXI to Green Bay 35-21. Moore said he probably wasn't as crushed as he should have been. "I just figured we'd go back and get one," he said. "I was so young, I didn't fully appreciate how hard it is to get to a Super Bowl, much less win one."
Winning a Super Bowl
Moore and Lorenzen share more in common than their UK ties. Both played high school football at Fort Thomas Highlands. And both were also on the right side of two of the biggest Super Bowl upsets ever.
Before the Patriots faced the Rams of Kurt Warner and The Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI, the New England team famously took the field en masse for the pre-game introduction rather than having players introduced individually.
At the time, it was a widely-praised act of unity. Moore said there was actually more to it than what the public saw.
Usually before NFL games, including the Super Bowl, the pre-game introductions include the defense for one team and the offense for the other. That means the players who start on one team's offense and one team's D don't get introduced.
"Before our first Super Bowl in '96, that created a big, huge ordeal in our locker room," Moore said. "We had a coin flip on who would get introduced. The defense won. Our offense had guys like (offensive tackle) Bruce Armstrong who had played forever and weren't going to be introduced at the Super Bowl. It was splitting our locker room. So when we went back the second time, we were more seasoned. We weren't letting that happen again. That was the biggest reason we went out as a whole team."
Moore played primarily on special teams in the game that saw Adam Vinatieri's last-second field goal stun the Rams 20-17.
"It wasn't just that we'd won the Super Bowl," Moore said of the thrill. "No one gave us a chance to win that game. It was sweet."
It was an even bigger upset exactly six years later when the Giants denied Belichick and the Patriots a perfect season, winning 17-14 in a game best-remembered for David Tyree's top-of-the-head catch of a Manning pass that ignited the game-winning drive.
As is usually the case for a backup QB in the SB, Lorenzen did not play. Which did not detract from his exultation after the upset victory.
"Once you win it, within 30 seconds or a minute, they give you one pass to get someone on the field," he said. "So I, of course, gave that to my wife (Tamara). She's down there, and she just keeps saying 'Oh my God, Oh my God, can you actually believe this?'"
A ring and the memories
Today, Moore counts his lucky stars to have played in not one but two Super Bowls in an eight-year NFL career.
"What I remember is just how fast the Super Bowl, it all went by," he said. "It's just surreal. I mean, after we won, Mick Jagger sang at our after-party. Can you imagine?"
For Lorenzen, the post-victory moment that lingers was when the victorious Giants came back to New York and were given a Big Apple ticker-tape parade.
"I have it on film, I personally hand-held videotaped it," he said. "It rained ticker tape. I don't think you recognize until you go through it how incredible that is."
Moore and Lorenzen have one other thing in common: Their teams' Super Bowl victories were their last NFL games. Both were released the following season.
Today, Moore, 40, is a married father of three. Each year around the Super Bowl, he said he wears his championship ring. "I have it on today," he said Friday. The rest of the time, he keeps it locked in a safe.
Lorenzen, 30, is a married father of two. Annually at Super Bowl time, he, too, breaks out his ring. "I wear it, usually, the two weeks before the game," he said. "Maybe if I have to go to some kind of banquet or big dinner. Otherwise, I've got it locked up."
For all those little boys out there today dreaming of playing on a team that makes the Super Bowl, Lorenzen said the reality lives up to the fantasy.
"It's the best, greatest feeling," he said. "It's awesome."