The nameless "12th man" the Seattle Seahawks frequently refer to just may be a Niagara University professor.
Shortly after Dr. Jimmy Smith began working as a professor in NU's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the fall of 2013, he was asked to chaperone the college's annual experiential learning trip to the Super Bowl.
Smith, a native of Olympia, Washington, grew up a Seahawks fan. Seattle is 2-for-2 in Super Bowl appearances since Smith began taking NU students to work on location during one of the world's largest events.
Last year, the Seahawks thumped Denver, 43-8, as Niagara students performed tasks behind the scenes at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. On Sunday, Seattle will attempt to become only the ninth NFL team to win back-to-back championships during the Super Bowl era.
The Seahawks, who played their first game in 1976, had never won a Super Bowl before Smith came to Niagara University.
Coincidence? Maybe, but as much as Smith is pulling for his hometown team to defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, he is more interested in the 13 students under his advise enjoying a resume-padding experience they'll never forget.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of these young men and women," said Smith, who teaches courses in sport management, sport marketing and fundraising. "Each of these students earned the right to be here, and I want to make sure they get as much as possible out of this trip."
This marks the sixth year in a row NU has sent students to the Super Bowl.
Interested students undergo a fairly rigorous process to be chosen. Resumes and cover letters are collected and interviews are conducted to determine which students to take. Each student covers approximately $1,100 for airfare and hotel accommodations.
The students conducted job training Thursday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX. The group will take in the NFL Experience exhibit and the PGA Phoenix Open (and visit the Grand Canyon) over the next couple days.
On Sunday, the students will serve in numerous hospitality positions in University of Phoenix Stadium. More than 63,000 fans are expected to be on hand as Seattle battles New England for NFL supremacy while an additional 110 million viewers will watch the game on television.
The NU group will return home Monday evening, about 24 hours after the Seahawks or Patriots are crowned champions.
Onsite service-learning experiences are offered regularly by NU's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management. For example, sport management students have recently volunteered during Major League Baseball's spring training and the NCAA Final Four.
Niagara University offers undergraduate degrees in hotel and restaurant management, sport management and tourism and recreation management. In addition, an M.S. in sport management also is offered to better prepare graduates for careers in the increasingly competitive sport and recreation industry.
For more information on Niagara University's College of College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, call 716-286-8279 or visit www.niagara.edu/hospitality.