LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - WAVE 3 News first introduced you to a proud Trinity football dad and cancer survivor Gary Degen in December. Degen was one of 10 finalists in a NFL.com contest to win Super Bowl tickets. We are happy to report your votes paid off!
Degen is going to the Super Bowl with his two sons and five other NFL.com winners. The family found out more than a week ago, but had to sign agreements with the NFL to keep quiet about winning the contest until a commercial aired this weekend during the playoffs.
Degen's fight for life is a story of faith, family and a game and it touched the nation. "The dedication towards football led both of my boys down a path of commitment," Degen told audiences in his NFL Films story about his battle with prostate cancer. As the cancer spread to his spine, Degen focused not on himself, but on his two sons' football workouts taking his mind off his own battle. A battle he is currently winning.
Thanks to sons Tristan and Isaiah's Trinity High School and Christian Academy families, WAVE 3 News viewers and thousands of people the Degens never met an NFL Films crew came back to Louisville.
"It's mind boggling," Gary said of winning, "It's unbelievable."
The production crew told the Degens they were shooting a follow-up interview for the 10 Super Bowl ticket finalists. "The interview went on," Gary remembered, "and he (the producer) asked us a lot of questions that we had answered probably 15 times at this point."
Little did the Degens know, NFL Analyst and Hall of Famer Howie Long was sneaking in the back door of their Louisville home. "Hi," said Long as he walked in behind the living room couch. "Oh my Gosh, Howie Long, how are you sir? " A stunned Gary Degen asked Long.
Long replied, "America loved your story and you and your boys are going to the Super Bowl this year, I've got your tickets right here." Degen said, "It was just a moment I would have never expected a year ago."
"It was definitely surreal," His son Tristan said of meeting Long, "I couldn't find words to say to him when he was talking to me and stuff, but it was really cool."
His brother Isaiah agreed, "I was too nervous to say anything."
The NFL great brought plenty of Super Bowl gear, took photos with the family and talked Villanova football with Gary, a walk-on back in the day with Long's former college team.
As wonderful as it is to win the contest, knowing their story may be giving others strength is the real prize. Gary's wife Barbara said of their struggle coming out in a positive light, "We knew that only God could have orchestrated this and it was just really cool."
Gary agreed, "We're grateful, it's awesome."
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft whose wife died from cancer in 2011 also called Gary to tell him how inspirational he thought his story was.
The Degens are from New England and also lived in Seattle so they've got a couple of options in play for the Super Bowl. No matter who gets in, they will be happy to be there.
Besides the tickets to the game, the Degens are getting an all expenses paid trip to New York for six days and five nights.
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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