The NFL’s 100th-anniversary commercial was the runaway hit of the Super Bowl, what with stars past and present colliding — literally — in joyous mayhem. But tucked amid Joe Montana, Deion Sanders, Odell Beckham Jr. and Peyton Manning was a face you might not have recognized: the young woman who catches the ball after Von Miller flips Tony Gonzalez into a cake.
Who is she? That’s Sam Gordon, a viral-video football star of a few years back. It’s only right that she flips the ball to Saquon Barkley, since Gordon ripped off a few Barkley-esque moves of her own back in the day.
As a 9-year-old, she throttled the competition in an almost all-boys tackle league, scoring 35 touchdowns, amassing almost 2,000 rushing yards on 232 carries and, just to round out her game, making 65 tackles. She’s since worked with her father to help create an all-girls tackle league. At last year’s Super Bowl, she won the NFL’s first “Game Changer” award, honoring people who seek to move football forward.
So how did she get hooked up with this commercial?
“I’ve always had a relationship with the NFL since I was 9 and they invited me to the Super Bowl,” said Gordon, now 15 and a high school sophomore in Utah. “It was just a really quick thing that happened. We filmed it about Jan. 15, and I didn’t even know about it until Jan. 7.”
Gordon and her father Brent flew out to Los Angeles to join in the three-day shoot directed by Peter Berg of “Friday Night Lights” fame. It wasn’t until they got the script in the hotel the night before shooting that they realized what they were in for.
“We looked at the script, and we were like, ‘Oh boy, this is a big deal,’” she said. “All the players’ names were in the script. These were legendary players, and just to get this moment to be in the commercial with them was just amazing.”
In the ad, Gordon ends up with the ball amid the wreckage as a tattered, untucked Richard Sherman approaches her. “Can I have the ball, please?” he asks with a smile.
“You want this?” Gordon replies, holding out the golden football. “Come and get it.” She then spins and dishes to Barkley, who pulls off a characteristic hurdle.
The idea behind the ad, of course, is to showcase not only the league’s past and present, but — in the form of Gordon and Barkley, among others — its future as well.
— Sam Gordon (@Sam_Gordon6) February 4, 2019
Gordon’s part took about three to four hours to film, and she — along with Sherman and Barkley — was one of the very last in front of the cameras. As you’d imagine, by that point the set was a complete mess.
“Everything was destroyed,” Gordon said. “There was cake everywhere, broken tables. It was really funny.”
Gordon got to live out every NFL fan’s dream, hanging out with Sherman and Barkley and trading stories. But one small problem cropped up during filming. The football the filmmakers were using was full-sized and spray painted gold, and Gordon’ hands were too small to palm it at Sherman. So the filmmakers used an old receivers’ trick and basically glued the ball to her hand. Worked well enough, right?
Back home for the Super Bowl, Gordon sat back and watched the ad with the rest of the world. And immediately afterward, her phone blew up.
“I had at least 100 notifications,” she laughs. “Everyone I knew saw me on that Super Bowl commercial, and everybody was really excited and positive.”
Outside of the NFL, Gordon’s involved with the Utah Girls Tackle Football League, which has grown from 50 girls at inception in 2015 to 350 girls last year. She’s filed suit against high schools on Title IX grounds, seeking to get girls’ tackle football instituted in the school system. Down the line, she’d love to help girls’ tackle football gain a foothold in college and even professionally.
“Football is such an amazing sport,” Gordon said. “I want to watch it grow, and help it grow, and offer all the help I can.”
Starring in an ad viewed by a hundred million people is a pretty solid start.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Brady had to convince Belichick to kick late FG
• Smith: 76ers’ trade for Harris has a lot of factors
• No shirts, plenty of bling on Patriots parade route
• Thamel: NBA scouts break down Duke phenom’s game