FRISCO, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys are not headed to Super Bowl, but North Texas is sending a standout football player to the big game.
In December, Tyler Sampson, 13, was named one of ten finalists in the NFL’s “Together We Make Football” competition.
The Frisco teen recently found out that his inspiring story racked up enough votes to win him a trip to New York City and three tickets to Super Bowl 48.
Sampson has played football since he was a young boy, despite the fact that he was born missing most of his right arm.
“I just like football,” Tyler told CBS 11. “I thought it would be more challenging but I thought why not give it a try.”
The effort has paid off for Tyler, who is a star on his football team at Griffin Middle School. His mother, Cindy, entered his video in the NFL competition and was excited when her son was named a finalist. But she said the NFL used a couple of trick plays when announcing the winners.
“First, I thought it I had a pretty good chance,” said Tyler. “Once three people won, I started to get a little nervous.”
“They kept throwing us off,” Cindy said. When the family heard the NFL had announced three of the five winners with no news about Tyler, she thought, “OK. We didn’t win.”
The league told the Sampsons it needed some footage of Tyler at school for a documentary set to air Super Bowl Sunday. So, the school set up a pep rally for all the students and invited Tyler’s parents. “They wanted to show how the community has supported Tyler and they thought this would be a good thing for that,” said Cindy.
But when someone at the pep rally asked Tyler about his favorite player and seconds later Cindy saw Dallas Cowboy Demarcus Ware sneaking up behind her son, she knew Tyler had won.
Years ago, Tyler had met Ware at a grocery store. “I asked him if I could ever play football,” Tyler recalls. “And he said ‘If you try you can do anything you want.’”
Since then, Ware has been Tyler’s favorite player, and the best candidate to surprise Tyler with the news.
“It was really amazing,” said Tyler. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I totally won!’”
Tyler has a full itinerary when he leaves for New York next week. He’ll attend a press conference with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a tailgate party, a red carpet event, a VH1 concert, and the Super Bowl. The league is giving him two extra tickets to take his twin brother and dad.
Tyler says of all the events, he’s most looking forward to the game, where he says he’ll be rooting for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.