There's the life of a Super Bowl MVP, and then there's the life of Sam Gordon.
In the two weeks since her football highlight video hit the blogosphere, then the mainstream media, the nine-year-old sensation has appeared on Good Morning America, taken in a BYU game, flown to Chicago for a daytime talk show, tackled Marshall Faulk on the set of the NFL Network, and on Sunday afternoon she huddled up with the 49ers at practice.
Monday she'll meet Steve Young and watch Monday Night Football. And in a couple weeks, "Sweet Feet" is hoping to catch a Giants game in New York and meet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who phoned her dad this week to congratulate him.
Oh, and she's also been invited to do some public speaking. At age 9.
So what's been the best part of being arguably the youngest ever NFL celebrity?
Actually, it's the part that has nothing to do with the gridiron. That's because Sam Gordon's biggest dream hints at the end of her football career.
Sam's dad, Brent, is still in a happy state of shock about what happened when he uploaded video of his daughter tackling, juking and darting past older boys in her Salt Lake City Gremlins football league. He's been flooded with hundreds of calls, so many that he had to turn off his cell phone for a few days so he could, you know, be a father to not only Sam, but 12-year-old Max, who inspired his little sister to pick up football in the first place.
"I just can't believe some of this stuff," he said by phone Sunday, allowing a laugh.
Brandon Marshall mentioned Sam in a tweet. LaMichael James nominated her for the Heisman. (Don't tell Kenjon Barner.) Staffers at the Salt Lake City airport not only recognized Sam, but asked her to sign their Wall of Fame. When she got to her Chicago hotel for the TV taping – Brent says he's been sworn not to tell which show – the concierge had milk and cookies sent up to Sam's room.
But the biggest treat, at least for Sam, came in the form of a shout-out from a non-football player. U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach tweeted that she'd like to invite Sam to a game.
There was one problem, however: Brent didn't know how to respond. He didn't have a Twitter account, had no idea how to contact Wambach. So he set up a Twitter handle for Sam (@FootballSam6) and replied. (Sam's very first tweet, on Nov. 8: "Hi Abby!")
And on Nov. 30, the Gordons will fly to Phoenix and Sam will kick the ball around with Wambach and the U.S. National Team. Then they'll stay an extra day for a match on Dec. 1.
Some might wonder why she would consider something other than football, but Sam's career plans lie on the pitch. As many parents know, the two sports often conflict, so a choice has to be made.
"She'll play football for the next two years," Brent said Sunday. "Then she'll want to focus on soccer."
Sam's having a blast meeting NFL celebs from Warren Sapp to Jim Harbaugh, but her heart has always been with soccer. And it's hard not to see her succeeding there, considering her moves and speed. She loves being called "Mini Mia" after a certain soccer superstar, and she certainly looks the part as she takes aim at this unfortunate goaltender.
Considering she told the NFL Network Sunday she likes defense more than offense because she can plow into people, the only possible drawback is that she can't tackle in soccer.
Her plan is to play, at most, just two more seasons of football, and Brent's fine with that. He's just happy all this happened during a three-week break from school so his daughter had time to get her teeth pulled when she wasn't doing TV interviews.
There have been a couple of difficult moments for Brent, most notably when he had to swap out the music on his famous video because of copyright laws. But mostly it's been a joy ride. He says he's not out to make any money off this; he just wants Sam to have fun.
"When people call me," Brent says, "most of them say, 'I have a daughter that plays sports.' They see Sam getting attention, and they relate. They are just proud fathers. When Roger Goodell called me, we didn't talk football; we just talked about our kids for 10 minutes."
You can see the appeal to everyone from Goodell to Mia Hamm to Desmond Howard, who also suggested Sam should win the Heisman. Football may be the one sport where, in time, a woman's physique becomes a disadvantage. But it seems the whole country is celebrating a girl who not only has the guts to get on the field, but has the talent (and tackling skill) to dust the boys.
For the next few weeks, while she's in the spotlight, and for the next couple of years while she's on the football field, Sam will be playing for a lot of little girls across the country. And she'll be living, smiling, sprinting proof of something moms and dads always tell their sports-loving little girls: You can beat the boys.
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