Superbowl LIII was played in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday, 3 February 2019, with the New England Patriots defeating the Los Angeles Rams with a score of 13-3. The game will long be remembered as the lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history.
However, New England’s linebacker Kyle Van Noy and 41-year-old quarterback, Tom Brady, were not the only superstars of the day. Another Latter-day Saint, 15-year-old Sam Gordon, stole the show in what LDS Living refers to as “the most well-thought-out and executed commercial of the game: the NFL’s ‘100-Year Game.’” The commercial featured 44 NFL stars from past and present including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Deion Sanders, Joe Montana, Aaron Donald, to name just a few, performing impressive stunts on screen, with Sam Gordon added to the mix, proving that women also have a place among the greats of football.
Sam “Sweet Feet” Gordon was only eight years old when the video of her breaking tackles and running past boys in her tackle football league made her a football sensation. Her father, Brent Gordon, recalls that Sam’s rise to fame was extraordinary. He said, “She posted her story in the morning before leaving for school, and three hours later, The Ellen [DeGeneres] Show called, and the next day, Good Morning America had a camera crew at our home.”
Since then, Sam has been a favorite with national news outlets from ESPN to Sports Illustrated, and the NFL recently highlighted her incredible achievements in inspiring girls to join football leagues across the nation.
Sam’s list of accolades is impressive, to say the least. Since her football highlights went viral, she was interviewed by Good Morning America twice, appeared on ESPN’s Sports Center, and was honored at a Utah Jazz game. She also has the honor of being the first female football player to appear on a Wheaties cereal box. And, the mayor of South Jordan, Utah, even named December 18th “Sam Gordon Day.’ The list does not stop there.
Not only is Sam the only girl on her football team, but she can outrun almost anyone, which is how she earned the nickname “Sweet Feet.”
Sam and her family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as the “Mormon Church”). She has always played sports with her older brother Max. When he started to play tackle football, she was right there on the sidelines running the speed drills. Her dad recalls, “At first, Max tried to get her to stop because he was embarrassed that she was beating most of the players on his team. But then his coach included Sam in the drills and issued a challenge to the team: ‘Beat Gordon’s sister!’”
That was the beginning of Sam’s incredible story. Her father continued, “After Sam finished running drills with the team one day, Max’s coach talked with her and told her he thought she could be a great football player. It was at that moment she wanted to play tackle football.” Her first football game proved to be the start of an impressive season. She said, “I scored a touchdown on my very first play ever in my very first game, and I ended up scoring four more times that game on only eight carries. Although she was center of her team’s offense, she really liked playing defense because she liked tackling the other players. She said, “I would hit them as hard as I could. It was fun!”
Brent Gordon felt that it was important that his daughter play sports because he believes that sports teach valuable life lessons and skills, like teamwork, respecting coaches, and overcoming challenges. Perhaps one of her biggest challenges was being accepted as a girl playing a sport that is typically seen as a “boy’s sport.”
Her neighbor, ministering teacher, and family friend, Ari Bruening, was awestruck after watching Sam’s video. At the request of his wife, he contacted Sam about sharing her amazing story in the form of a book that he hopes will inspire people to follow their dreams. He said, “I have daughters of my own, and I realized that her story was not just about football; it’s about girls being able to exceed all expectations and overcome gender barriers. But it’s even bigger than that: it’s about everyone, male or female, being able to do whatever you put your mind to.”
Sam adds, “I don’t think my story is just about me. It’s about what we can accomplish even when other people think we can’t.” She continues, “I want all girls to believe that they are really great and can do great things if they set high goals and work hard. I hope my story will inspire girls to have big dreams, too.” The most important thing she wants people to learn from her experience is this: “Little girls can do big things!”