By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The NFL has named three frontline coronavirus “heroes” as honorary captains for Super Bowl LV.
The captains, who include an educator, a nurse manager and veteran, were chosen due to their “dedication and selfless commitment to helping others,” the NFL said in a statement. They will take part in the coin toss ceremony before kick-off Feb. 7.
Los Angeles educator Trimaine Davis was recognized by the league for his efforts to ensure both his students and members of their households had devices and internet access amid the pandemic to “help bridge the digital divide,” according to the NFL.
Davis secured hotspots, laptops and tablets for his students and hosted workshops for families to learn how to use the devices.
“Throughout his career, Trimaine has prioritized the academic success of Black students through his work with the CSU Northridge Black Male Initiative, San Diego State’s Student African American Brotherhood, Afrikan Student Union and more,” the NFL statement read.
Davis was lured onto a Zoom call by former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and Angela LaChica, president and CEO of public relations firm LaChica Sports, under the pretense of talking about the work the NFL is doing to combat the digital divide. He appeared shocked when told he had been picked to participate in the league’s biggest event of the year.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Davis said, smiling. “… Listen, I need a moment. I need about two hours to just take this in. Aw, y’all really got me. You got me good with this one.”
Suzie Dorner, a nurse manager at Tampa General Hospital, will not only be cheering for her hometown football team but will be honored on the field as well.
Dorner has been working in Tampa for more than eight years and has “worked selflessly, as all nurses do, to prioritize others and work endless hours” throughout the pandemic, according to the NFL. She lost two grandparents to COVID-19 as well.
Dorner was “speechless” upon hearing the news, she told Derrick Brooks, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and chair of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV host committee.
The pandemic has been “really mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting” for all health care workers, Dorner said.
“To be honored at the Super Bowl makes everything that we’ve all been through this year, it makes it a little bit more tolerable and something to celebrate everything that we’ve been through, the good and the bad things,” she is seen telling Brooks in a YouTube video posted by the NFL.
James Martin, a Marine Corps veteran who lives in Pittsburgh, has worked supporting veterans, high school athletes and local youth amid the pandemic and has helped to virtually connect more than 1,800 fellow veterans and their families to one another through the Wounded Warrior Project, according to the NFL. He also opened his home to children in need in his neighborhood.
Martin was informed of his Super Bowl role by former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
Martin, who immediately recognized Bettis when the Zoom call began, took several seconds to collect himself before he finally responded that he would be “deeply honored” to participate.
“I appreciate everything. I appreciate the family, the community,” he said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned in this life, it’s much like the team. The team represents the city. We put it on your back. So, I do the same thing for my family, and it just keeps repaying itself forward. And that’s the best we can do.”
The NFL has also chosen National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who captivated the country when she read a poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, to read another original poem before the coin toss ceremony begins.
“These heroes are symbolic of the thousands of health care professionals, educators and veterans throughout our country who continue to care for, heal and support those in need during this pandemic,” the statement read. “Together they embody our season-long message of ‘It Takes All of Us."”
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