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Most people would be disappointed if they went to the Super Bowl and didn't get to see the game in person. For Kevin Haglund, the game was almost an afterthought.
Haglund, a senior at University of Wisconsin-Stout, spent a week in New York before and after the Feb. 2 game but simply watched it on TV like most fans.
The highlight of his trip took place during the four days prior to the game. Through a staffing agency, he worked for the National Football League at its interactive fan extravaganza on Broadway in Times Square. Known as Super Bowl Boulevard, the event drew tens of thousands of fans daily to the 13-block area.
Haglund had the equivalent of a sideline pass. For five hours a day, from Wednesday, Jan. 29, through Saturday, Feb. 1, he worked at the player autograph stage. Fans lined up to get free signatures from 20 current and former NFL stars, who each signed for an hour, one player at a time.
A health, wellness and fitness major and Blue Devils football player, Haglund admittedly was a little wide-eyed at first as NFL greats such as Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Cam Newton, DeSean Jackson and many others took their turn on stage within feet of him.
Some players, such as NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, chatted with Haglund and other workers, posed for photos and signed items for them.
"It was a great experience, amazing," said Haglund, from Pepin, who also was visiting New York for the first time.
Haglund was a personal assistant to the players while on stage, and he and other employees also helped keep the fan line moving. "By the end of the first day, we had 500 people per hour. I didn't know if that was good, but I was told that was phenomenal," Haglund said.
Pregame excitement reached a fever pitch Friday and Saturday when the line for the autograph stage alone became a winding mass of fans numbering in the thousands, with some fans waiting up to five hours for a signature.
"It was insane," Haglund said. "By 2 p.m. we had to close the line. The fans are crazy."
Haglund was paid for his work but had to cover his expenses. Luckily, he was able to stay with a friend in Greenwich Village. He also made arrangements with his professors before he left.
Haglund heard about the Super Bowl job through another student, from St. John's University, whom he met in summer 2013 while at an NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis. Haglund was one of 270 students picked from 900 applicants to attend the forum, which featured speakers from pro sports teams and major universities.
A linebacker for four years with the Blue Devils, Haglund is a strength and conditioning intern for several Blue Devils teams this semester; he graduates in May. In addition, he officiates high school basketball games in west-central Wisconsin.
Focused on health, wellness and fitness
Michael Bird, director of the health, wellness and fitness program, has no doubt Haglund will be successful in the industry. "Kevin has been an outstanding, motivated student both in the classroom and through his various field experiences. He is very organized and well prepared. He asks questions and always wants to learn more about the classroom subjects," Bird said.
Haglund is the program's student adviser in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.
Haglund chose the fitness professional concentration in the program; the other concentration is health and wellness promotions for those interested in the corporate and nonprofit sector.
Haglund said he feels prepared to succeed in the industry. He points to UW-Stout's applied learning model as one of the keys. "There are a lot of hands-on aspects to the program," he said.
Haglund will be among the earliest graduates in the major, which began in 2011. With his degree and two internships, he's open to whatever career opportunities come his way, hoping his Super Bowl experience also will make his resumé stand out.
For more information on the health, wellness and fitness program, go to the program website.