Meet a man who's been to every Super Bowl



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Posted on February 3, 2011 at 2:15 AM

TAMPA, Fla. — Super Bowls are where the NFL's most enduring memories are made.

Now meet Tom Henschel, a man who has witnessed first-hand as many of those Super Bowl memories as anyone on the planet.

"Football's been in my blood ever since I been a little kid, and I just have to be there, you know? I have to go to the game," he said.

Henschel is one of four men featured in an ad campaign touting them as the "Never-Miss-a-Super Bowl Club."

When did Henschel decide that he was going to make a pilgrimage to the NFL championship game every year? "After about Super Bowl III or IV," he said.

The retired airline worker's love of the game goes back to his childhood, growing up about 20 minutes north of Pittsburgh and five doors down from the local high school, where as a kid he watched the legendary Cookie Gilchrist play.

"He was the best player I've ever seen growing up," Henschel said.

His first Super Bowl ticket was given to him by a Chicago Bears player because Henschel worked part-time at a bar near O'Hare Airport.

The airline employee could fly for free, so he took off on his first journey to a game that was not yet even called the "Super Bowl."

"I've just been very lucky," Henschel said. "I've been at the right place at the right time all my life."

Henschel and his wife Reggie have been married for 34 years. The couple delayed their honeymoon a day to go to a Steelers game.

A converted a bedroom in their suburban Tampa home serves as a Steelers/Super Bowl shrine.

If a Super Bowl cushion has been made or a program printed, Henschel's got it, and they all look brand-new.

"I have them in sleeves to keep them in mint condition," he said about his collection of programs. "I don't let anybody go through these. I wouldn't let my mother go through these ... every one of them has a memory."

Then there are the tickets — all 45 of them, kept in a safe-deposit box for most of the year.

"My heart is into this," Henschel said. "If I would lose just one of these I'd be devastated."

Especially his ticket to Super Bowl XXX, which cost him more than he's paid for any other game — $1,500 to see his beloved Steelers lose to the Dallas Cowboys.

For the last 15 years, the NFL has provided Henschel with a Super Bowl ticket at face value (and yes, he has to pay for it), but he doesn't think twice about writing that check — even though what once cost $12 is now $900.

"I get so excited, I tell you, I get tears in my eyes sometimes this is so special to me," he said.

Now, thanks to the notoriety provided by the Visa commercial, Tom Henschel is a wanted man. The phone's been ringing off the hook.

"I can deal with it," he said with a laugh. "I love it! I love football so much, you have no idea."

And as his ultra-exclusive club prepares for its 45th annual meeting, everything is right again in Tom Henschel's world.

"This is my game, and this is my pride and joy, and I'm going to love this forever and ever," he said. "To the day I die I'm always going to have memories."