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Students turn Super Bowl into learning venture

After a weekend full of late nights, early mornings and a roller coaster of surprises and stressful situations, eight students from the Sport Management Alliance returned from volunteering in New Orleans over Super Bowl weekend.

Hunter Haas, vice president of the SMA, said the idea to volunteer began when he sent out several emails to find something for the SMA to do.

“It started back in the fall,” Haas said. “I wanted to give back to the University and the program because I got so much from the sports management program. I sent some random emails out to people who worked with the Super Bowl, and they wrote back and said ‘If you can get here, we’ve got a spot for you.’”

The group volunteered at events such as the DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl Saturday, where they took care of celebrities as talent handlers.

“As talent handlers, basically we said ‘Hey, here is your bag, we have to go to the blue carpet — which is basically like red carpet — to take pictures, here’s food and your family is over here.’” said senior Josiah Blevins.

After seeing superstars such as Peyton Manning, Eddie George, Lil Wayne, Terrell Owens and Tom Arnold at the event, Blevins said he couldn’t help but think to himself, “I shouldn’t be here.”

The coolest event, the eight unanimously agreed, was the Beach Bowl.

“Working the Beach Bowl was a pretty unbelievable experience. We got to work along side a lot of celebrities so that was a pretty once in a lifetime opportunity,” Haas said.

The experience the students had will be remembered for a life time, and helped them realize what their future could hold, Haas said.

“It helped open our eyes up to what we could be doing in our future, and how much work we will have to put in if we plan an event as big as the Super Bowl,” sophomore Shaun Higgins said.

The SMA Super Bowl volunteers’ hotel was about a half hour from the New Orleans, which the group toured after their 14-hour drive to Louisiana, Blevins said. The group was able to visit Bourbon Street, the French Quarter and saw all of the ESPN sets, he said.

As the group walked down the historic New Orleans sites, they saw tons of celebrities and sports stars.

“We saw Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator of the [Houston] Texans. He saw us awkwardly taking pictures of him in a restaurant from outside, and he waved us in and talked to us and took a picture,” Blevins said. “It was a good first day.”

Higgins said every inch of the city pertained to the Super Bowl.

“To be able to see how a city transforms for an event like that and how much planning goes into the Super Bowl was really pretty eye opening,” Higgins said.

There were nearly 75 applicants for the trip and Haas said professors helped narrow the search down by interviewing students.

“All we had to pay for was the hotel and the gas to get down there,” Haas said.

Higgins said the Sport Management department played a huge role in the success of this trip.

“[This trip] wouldn’t have been possible with out the great faculty in the program. They were really supportive with the interviews and offering advice and help,” Haas said.

Sophomore Loren Branch said the whole experience was fantastic.

“You can’t go wrong with the Super Bowl,” he said.

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