Sport management senior Rocco Agostino became the most recent student from West Virginia University to get real-world experience working at the Super Bowl in Phoenix on Feb. 12. Follow his nine-day trip through the journal below that starts with boarding the flight in Pittsburgh and ends with confetti on the ground at State Farm Stadium to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s largest sporting events.
On the first day, we landed in at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, grabbed our luggage, and found our new home for the next week and a half. I got to meet our group mentors during orientation where we discussed everyone’s roles inside and outside the company.
The next day we got were involved in getting professional headshots done, followed by info sessions from a few group mentors. Several team members and I eventually got lunch and experienced In' N 'Out Burger for the first time. Then we they had a recreational event in which our group went horseback riding, had dinner, and enjoyed the sunset over the desert mountains.
The third day began with a visit and tour of Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Once the tour concluded, there was an info session with members of the sales department for the Diamondbacks and a member of the social media team for the Phoenix Suns. After these sessions, we went to the Super Bowl Host Committee Center to pick up credentials to work our assigned events during the big game. The way to the center was a scenic walk throughout Phoenix, where large buildings were advertising the event and entering Footprint Center, the home of the Phoenix Suns.
Footprint Center was hosting the Super Bowl Opening Day event that allowed fans to gather and see NFL players answer questions. The NFC Championship trophy, the AFC Championship trophy, and the Vince Lombardi trophy were on site present during this event. Members from both teams came out on stage to answer interview questions including stars like Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Travis Kelce, and Jason Kelce.
The following day began with a visit to Tempe Diablo Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels spring training facility. We got permission to tour the stadium and field and take photos. We also were able to meet with a few members of the player development department for an info session and learned some valuable information, all while players were practicing and going through drills in the background.
Long after the tour to view the training grounds, we headed to State Farm Stadium, the site of this year’s Super Bowl. Our first in-person training session showed us where we would work and acquire uniforms. We then went to a nearby plaza to get lunch and assisted the media team with recording content for their social media platforms.
The itinerary for the fifth day included visiting the Fiesta Bowl Museum. WVU's football program was engraved on a trophy and had their helmet on the wall commemorating their appearances there. After observing the museum, we had the opportunity to be part of a live audience for Adam Breneman's football podcast. Breneman is former Penn State football player whose NFL career was cut short due to injury. He created a podcast where he talks to industry professionals and athletes. His guest for this episode was Jaycee Horn, a cornerback for the Carolina Panthers. After the recording, there was a Q&A with Breneman. I was able to meet with him and get a photo.
The sixth day began with my first work shift of the trip. I was assigned to work at the convention center where there was a meet and greet with Christian McAffery, a star running back for the San Francisco 49ers. We were each assigned sections at the convention center where we were to remain for the day. My section was assigned to providing entertainment for kids. I was impressed that so many events and games were set up so young children could participate and get excited about the sport and the Super Bowl.
Specifically, my job consisted of hosting a relay race where they get dressed in football gear and raced others. The kids were happy to get pictures and parents took videos of their kids in the oversized football gear. It was impactful for me to see how happy the kids and parents were during this event.
Other sections had other events for kids that included former NFL stars like Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald playing catch and scrimmaging with kids. Marshawn Lynch was also available to talk to the fans and answer their questions.
The following day consisted of working another shift that was unlike the first. This role involved guarding the stage where players came and answered questions for fans. During this shift, a scheduled podcast was actively recorded on stage that included TJ Watt, Mark Ingram, and Cam Jordan. As the time came for those player appearances drew closer, more fans swarmed the area, and everyone was excited to see these players. Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans were excited to see TJ Watt, as he is currently one of the better players in the league.
I had a great spot for this job because I was standing right in front of the stage as the podcast was happening. Once this event concluded, there was another scheduled meet-and-greet session with Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert.
We spent most of the next day was spent resting and recovering as the team was exhausted from a packed itinerary. We visited a rooftop eatery with a luxurious pool and a beautiful view of the mountains in the distance. This location was right across the street from the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix.
Sunday, February 12th, was the ninth day of the incredible opportunity to participate in the 57th Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium. The day began with an early start at 3:50 am. An early start was required to get to our shuttles on time because anticipated traffic delays made transportation to the event problematic. After multiple shuttles, credential pick-ups, and another in-person training session, we made our way to State Farm Stadium for the big game. Once we arrived at the stadium, personnel immediately sent attendants to our stations. My job title for this event was "Event Operations Assistant," and my duty was to stand in front of a seating section designated for media personnel and to direct them to the appropriate locations to set up their equipment
Additionally, my position involved checking credentials to ensure media personnel had access to these areas and answering any questions from fans regarding the location of certain places around the stadium they wished to visit.
During the first quarter of the game, the section I worked became overcrowded with people. It became so hectic that no one could move and the number of people increased. I worked with co-workers to walk in the middle of the crowd and create a human wall. That helped split the crowd down the middle and forced people to walk in the same direction on one side of the human wall and the other direction on the opposite side to help expedite traffic flow and people could reach their destinations.
As this happened, I had an unexpected encounter with the star artist Jason Derulo. He was with his family and was struggling to get to his seats due to the cluster of people. Another employee and I made our way over to Jason and escorted him through the group blocking the entrance to his section.
Once the game officially ended, the confetti was shot, and fireworks burst into the air. Kansas City Chiefs fans were crying with joy and hugging everyone around them. Eagles fans were exiting in a rage saying some rather inappropriate things. My final duties for the event concluded by standing at different locations near the exit and directing media personnel again – this time to the postgame press conferences.
This experience was easily one of the most extraordinary opportunities I have been offered. The event was an inspirational learning experience with so much helpful information. Getting the chance to network critically with people within the industry provides me with lasting benefits. I made friends and can envision myself staying in contact with others who can assist me with the hurdles I may encounter in my professional career one day.