When Tyler Sampson and his family walked into his Texas middle school last week, they thought they were shooting extra footage for an NFL documentary.
Instead, Tyler, 13, who was born without an arm below his right elbow, was surprised to see his NFL idol, Dallas Cowboys' outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, standing there with three tickets to next month's Super Bowl in New Jersey.
"He was in tears. We all were," Sampson's father, Doug Sampson, told GoodMorningAmerica.com.
"When they said, 'Who is your favorite player?' I'm thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, he won,' and I'm thinking, 'Please say DeMarcus Ware because that's probably who's here to give you tickets,'" Sampson said.
Tyler, a seventh-grade student at Griffin Middle School in Frisco, Tex., was one of five winners selected from thousands of entries in the NFL's "Together We Make Football" competition that honors those whose passion for football inspires others.
The NFL called the family just before Christmas to tell them they were shooting additional footage of the top 10 finalists to air in the upcoming documentary, "Football America: Our Stories," a one-hour special to air on FOX on Super Bowl Sunday.
The true story was that Tyler had been selected a winner but they had to wait until Jan. 13 for the pep rally so that Ware, whom Tyler first met at age four, could be there to present Tyler with the tickets.
"He's a huge Cowboys fan and DeMarcus is his favorite player," Sampson said. "He's a huge fan of his ability to get to the quarterback."
The family's upcoming trip to the Super Bowl was put in place by Tyler's mom, Cindy, who saw a commercial for the competition last year and decided to submit a video featuring her football-loving son, who has played the sport, in addition to basketball and baseball, his whole life, despite his disability.
"My wife has always thought he's got such a great story and she decided that day that she wanted everyone to hear about it," Sampson said.
The only problem was that Tyler, who has a twin brother, Sterling, is, according to his dad, shy about his athletic prowess and required 45 minutes of coaxing to appear on video.
Once he was convinced, Tyler shone in the video that showed off what sets him apart from his peers both on and off the football field.
"He's extremely knowledgeable about the game so he knows where his capabilities are and where they're not," Sampson said. "And when Tyler plays on teams, his smile, his attitude, it really fills all the other kids up and I think the video did a good job of showing that."
Tyler, his brother and his parents will all travel to New Jersey next month to watch the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife stadium.
And although it was Cindy Sampson who passed on her love of the Dallas Cowboys and football to her son, and who submitted Tyler's winning video, it will be the three Sampson boys who will be rooting on their favored team to win, the Denver Broncos.
"My wife is the biggest football fan but she's letting it be a boys' night," Sampson said. "But anything that one person in our family experiences and shares, we all share it so we all feel like we won, not just Tyler."
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Doug Sampson