Most NFL players are rightfully scared when Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley is chasing them down.
Thirteen-year-old Trevor Stokes, on the other hand, is all smiles and giggles.
Decked out in a white New England Patriots jersey bearing quarterback Tom Brady's name and No. 12, Trevor took a handoff from Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings and ran upfield on the NFL Network's makeshift Super Bowl XLVI set in Indianapolis on Friday. With the 6-foot-2 Woodley in pursuit, the seventh-grader at Edgemont Junior High wasn't expecting to hear a playful barb from the 265-pounder.
"Hey, Brady," Woodley said, "You've gained some speed since the last time I chased you down."
Trevor couldn't help but grin.
"That was so cool," Trevor said by phone Saturday from his family's hotel room. Trevor and the rest of the Stokes family are in the midst of their Super Bowl experience funded by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Dakota. Trevor was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 7. The life-threatening lung disease causes mucus to build up in multiple areas of the body and severely hampers breathing.
Through persistent medication and the regular use of a vibrating vest, Trevor's parents, Amy and Jon Stokes, have largely kept the disease at bay. Even though he only weighs about 80 pounds, Trevor is a quarterback on the middle-school football team and is able to fully participate in indoor sports.
But there's still an urgency surrounding most of Trevor's activities. People afflicted with cystic fibrosis who survive into adulthood have an average life expectancy of just 37 years, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
A specialist in Sioux Falls nominated Trevor into the Make-A-Wish program in the summer of 2010, and the teen narrowly missed a Super Bowl trip to the icy Dallas Metroplex last winter.
A little bit of waiting was the least of Trevor's worries. Neither he nor his two siblings, 17-year-old brother Kyle and 9-year-old sister Carly, had even been on a plane before, much less attend an event so chock full of spectacle. Amy and Jon hadn't been in the air since their honeymoon about two decades ago.
But nervous excitement of the simplest kind gave way Thursday upon the family's arrival in Indianapolis. The Stokes are celebrating the weekend with 11 other Make-A-Wish children from across the country. The group took a full-scale tour of Lucas Oil Stadium Friday morning, which included time in both locker rooms.
"We peeked into the showers in the (New York Giants) room, and the shower heads were way high up," Trevor said. Amy Stokes estimated they were about 8 feet off the ground.
"I was tiny compared to them," Trevor said.
The tour sent the group meandering through the tunnels and near the playing surface, although the field was occupied by a gaggle of workers running through today's postgame ceremonies.
"I've never been in a stadium that big. I've been to a couple of (Rapid City) Rush games, but Lucas Oil Stadium is unbelievable," Trevor said.
The tour ended with lunch in the quarterback suite before the group was allowed in the NFL Experience before it opened to the public Friday afternoon. The Make-A-Wish families spent an hour on a FieldTurf football surface with former Buffalo Bills player Chris Draft.
"All the kids and their siblings were able to run through some drills on the field with the pro," Amy Stokes said. "It was great. There were even a couple of dads out there."
Trevor and his family then spent the rest of the afternoon playing games in the carnival-like setting, and the Stokes all got to feast their eyes on the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The night ended with the trip to the NFL Network set, where Jennings, Woodley and the children all posed for a couple of pictures.
Jennings even playfully took Trevor's hat and shoved it atop his head for a couple of the snapshots.
"Trevor's probably never going to let me wash that hat," Amy conceded.
They're not sure of their exact seats, though the Stokes know they are sitting together today in the lower bowl near the New England end zone.
No matter the location, Trevor and company are eagerly awaiting the culmination of their unique experience.
"It's been a lot of things happening and some real long days," Trevor said. "It's been so worth it, though."
Contact Danny Lawhon at 394-8431 or email email@example.com.