Goshen High School social studies teacher Shelly Wilfong has a passion for sharing knowledge.
"We need to make sure that we educate our students so that we can be a strong country, strong nation, strong state,” she said. “It all starts with the education."
That passion is rivaled only by her love for the colts.
When growing up, Wilfong’s grandfather would always tell her, ‘You have to root for the home team.’ So when the Irsays moved the Colts to Indianapolis from Baltimore, well, Wilfong finally had a home team.
“I’ve always loved the Colts,” she said, smiling. "They're a team you can be proud of because, unlike some football teams, you don't always hear about the Indianapolis football players getting arrested for this or that. They really care about their community; they're always doing things in the Indianapolis area, and they really are role models."
So for the last two years, she's called Lucas Oil Stadium her home. Her modest season tickets, three rows from the very top, allow her to share her favorite team with family and friends.
"I try to divvy up my tickets so everybody can go."
When the Colts’ chances of reaching the playoffs fizzled after only a few games, Wilfong knew the thought of seeing her team play a home game in the Super Bowl were lost. "You really find out who the real fans are when they aren't doing well." Fortunately for her, the chance to see the Super Bowl at her favorite stadium was not.
On the day of the NFL conference championship games, Colts owner Jim Irsay used his prolific Twitter account to run a contest.
Irsay is known for running Twitter contests for money—sometimes thousands of dollars—and Colts swag. Some are difficult; one lasted several days without a correct answer to Irsay’s riddle. Some are easy. Some, like the sweepstakes in which he asked tweeps to guess the number of different-sized footballs that were stuffed in a car, are pure chance.
This time, the contest took only general knowledge of football. Just guess the winners of the NFC and AFC championship games, and you’d be entered into a random drawing for Super Bowl tickets.
Wilfong, who normally uses twitter to keep up on happenings in the world of education, knows a thing or two about football on account of her season tickets and decided to give it a shot.
"I tweeted Patriots, Giants and sent it and didn't think anything more of it," she said.
Of course by this time in the story you know she won. Why would I be writing this article if that were not the case?
What you may or may not know however, is just how close she came to not winning.
The AFC Championship took place early in the afternoon. The game between the Patriots and Ravens was a gritty affair with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line. With only a few seconds left, the Ravens were in position for the game-tying field goal that would have sent the contest to overtime.
The NFC championship between the Giants and 49ers was a similar affair. Each team traded blow after blow. David Akers’ 25 yard kick in the fourth quarter sent the 17-17 game into overtime. Then, after a fumbled punt return, the Giants were in position. Just run the ball, kick a field goal, and a trip to the Super Bowl would be theirs.
"I really wasn't even thinking that 'Oh, gee, now I have a chance to win Super Bowl tickets,” Wilfong said.
When the Raven’s kicker, Billy Cundiff’s 32-yard boot sailed wide left of the posts it was supposed to sail between, Wilfong’s dream got a tiny bit closer to coming true.
And in appropriate, stars-aligning fashion, another kick, this time from Lawrence Tynes of the Giants kicked a winner. What Wilfong didn’t know is that Tynes didn’t just boot the Giants to the Super Bowl.
She should thank that leg.
“I got a direct message from Jim Irsay on Twitter that said, ‘Email us your contact info so we can call you and talk to you about your tickets.’ So I did and I still thought, 'Yeah right. This has got to be a hoax.'"
It was no hoax. She received a call the next day that confirmed that of which she could only dream.
"We're going to the Super Bowl!"
Come Super Sunday, Wilfong will ditch the classroom for another trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. She'll be wearing blue as she cheers on a Manning boy. "The giants are my NFC team," she said.
Only this time, it will be in one of the most sought-after seats in the world.
"Even when I’m there, I think it's just going to be just so surreal because I never would have thought that I’d be able to go."
Just a stroke of luck for humble, hometown teacher.
"It's going to be just the experience of a lifetime."