Western Pa. man's perfect attendance at Super Bowl pays off
When Super Bowl 50 is played this weekend in Santa Clara, Calif., Winfield resident Tom Henschel will be an honored guest of the National Football League.
Henschel, 74, is one of only three fans known to have attended every Super Bowl since its creation in 1966.
In recognition, he is attending this year's championship on the NFL's dime.
“The NFL is taking good care of us this year,” Henschel said. “They gave us the tickets, paid for the airfare and the hotel.”
To top it off, Henschel received a personal invitation from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to attend the league's biggest pre-game event. Noting Henschel is one of a “very small and elite group of people” to attend all 50 games, Goodell wrote that Henschel is part of Super Bowl history.
“As part of our Golden Anniversary celebration, we would like to invite you to be our honored guest at Super Bowl 50 and take part in our ‘NFL Honors' Award Ceremony on the Saturday evening before the game,” the letter stated.
So, Henschel will be in the same room when the NFL's Rookies of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year are named, along with countless celebrities who attend the event.
He's not sure exactly how he'll be involved other than as a spectator.
“I think I'm at least going to be recognized,” Henschel said. “There are only two other fans, there are three sportswriters and three photographers who have been to all 50.”
Don Crisman of Maine and Larry Jacobsen of San Francisco are the other two fans that the NFL recognizes as having been to every Super Bowl.
Henschel landed in California on Tuesday night with a buddy, Ken Koodrich of Baden.
“This is a big one for me, trust me,” Henschel said of the game at Levi's Stadium. “I'm really looking forward to it.
“I just wish the Steelers were there instead of Denver.”
When asked why this Super Bowl is so important, Henschel talked sentimentally about his love for football.
He credited his dad, Vince, who loved football, and who would take Henschel and his brother to high school football games on Friday nights, Pitt on Saturday and Steeler games on Sunday.
“He just instilled the love for football in us.”
He attended Super Bowls I & II after being given tickets.
After the famous Joe Namath “guaranteed win” upset of the Baltimore Colts by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs' upset of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, Henschel decided to go every year.
“I knew I had something special and I had to keep it going,” Henschel said.
Many years, he flooded the NFL with up to 40 letters to the annual Super Bowl ticket lottery, using friends' names.
Other years, he showed up without a ticket and paid scalpers. He spent $2,000 per ticket in 2011 for Super Bowl XLV to see the Steelers lose to Green Bay.
He's since moved on to the NFL's VIP list, allowing him to buy tickets at face value.
The face value for the NFL-provided 50-yard line seats he got this year is $2,500 apiece — a far cry from the $12 tickets to Super Bowl I.
And for the record, this year he thinks the Carolina Panthers will beat the Broncos, 38-20.
Tom Yerace is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.