With an influx of people in metro Atlanta for Super Bowl 53, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has taken time to highlight five faces in the crowd of thousands each day leading up to the big game. They may be from miles away, or they may be your neighbor. Here are the five stories from Monday you should know.
High school freshman gets to play with the ‘big boys’
In his young life Jamar Milfort has seen a lot of the world. Originally from Long Island, N.Y., he and his sister and two brothers have moved around a lot. His mother works for American Air Lines, and he’s lived in Haiti, Miami and New York, but said Douglas County feels more like home than anywhere he’s ever lived.
The freshman football player at Chapel Hill High School is getting a chance of a lifetime: He and some of his teammates have been chosen to participate in an NFL camp during Super Bowl week.
“This really is the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I’m counting down the hours. I don’t know how I’m able to sleep.”
Jamar has big dreams of playing Division I football and making his family proud.
“This is going to change the way I look at football and life,” he said. “This experience with the pro and Hall of Fame players will give me a better idea of what it takes to get to the big leagues and be successful. I have lots of questions for the players.”
Despite the nerves, Jamar says he is completely prepared and vows he won’t waste one second.
“I have a journal and I’m going to write down everything,” he said. “I want to be able to go back if I forget something, but I doubt that will happen.”
Jamar said his favorite player of all time is Ray Lewis.
“If he was anywhere near, I’d probably lose my mind,” said Jamar.
As far as the Big Game is concerned, it’s LA all the way for him.
“Todd Gurley’s got this,” he said.
— Arlinda Smith Broady
Volunteer Richard Lee combines his passion and love for Atlanta
Richard Lee has one word to describe football in the South - passion.
A Yankee by birth, Lee has made his home in the South for four decades.
The Woodstock resident loves the University of Tennessee, the Dawgs and, of course, the Atlanta Falcons.
“I love the camaraderie,” said the 72-year-old Chicago native. “Growing up in the north, football was popular but you just didn’t see the passion that you see down here — from the players to the fans to the coaches.”
So then little wonder that when Lee heard the Super Bowl LIII Host Committee was seeking volunteers for the biggest, most-watched football game in the nation, he had to raise his hand.
He also had another reason to volunteer, though.
Lee remembers the Super Bowl from a few years ago. His adopted home, he felt, got a bad rap.
“Atlanta didn’t get the respect it deserved,” said Lee, who will be volunteering downtown. “Atlanta is a great city. One of my priorities is to show visitors our southern hospitality. Everybody is a friend. I never meet a stranger. I want people to leave Atlanta with a good taste in their mouths.”
Lee retired from WWW Granger in 2013. He worked in building supply sales.
Before that, he worked in sales of ” anything metal. Nails. Screws. Anything” at Georgia-Pacific.
He has three adult children and seven grandchildren, who call him “Pop-Pop.”
Lee is no stranger to big sporting events. He was a member of the 1996 Olympic Band Committee. He also served on the Lassiter High School Band board of directors for nine years.
Currently, he’s president of his homeowners’ association and loves gardening and traveling with his wife of 51 years, Nancy.
His bucket list includes visiting all 50 states. He’s about a third of the way done.
His more immediate goal, though, is to have fun over the next few days.
“I want to look back on this Super Bowl and say I gave it my all and I hope it was enough.”
— Shelia M. Poole
Football fan’s gridiron love has lasted longer than her marriage did
Pamela Perry hasn’t always been a football fan, but in 2004 she married a man who was a fanatic.
“He loves it so much, he makes you interested in it,” she said. So what had been something other people were into became a passion for Perry. Even after she and her husband split, the love of the game stayed strong.
“I have several favorite teams,” said Perry. “Of course, I’m a Falcons fan, and I love the Cowboys and Kansas City.”
And even though the Saints aren’t on the top of her list, she’s one of the few in Atlanta who wouldn’t have minded seeing the town painted black and gold for the big game.
“One thing you can say about Saints fans is that they know how to party,” she said.
Perry doesn’t have the long green required to get inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3, so she’s opted for the next best thing: have tons of food and lots of friends and family at the house.
“We do the traditional things — wings and chips and dips — regular party finger foods,” she said adding that her uncle has made noise about breaking out the grill.
But in an attempt to build better bodies, she said her aunt is insisting on vegetables.
“I wouldn’t mind a squash casserole or something like that,” she said. “Anything too healthy might still be on the table at the end of the night.”
Perry isn’t rooting for one team or the other, she’s just looking forward to the spectacle. But she said she’ll try not to party too hard.
“I have to be at work at 6 a.m. the next morning,” she said.
— Arlinda Smith Broady
‘Dreams come true’ for die-hard Rams fan and native Atlantan
At age 5, Leslie Farris played for a Carrollton city recreational football team called, “The Rams.”
He immediately connected with the Los Angeles Rams. That was 50 years ago. He continued to play football — running back and corner back — through middle school, but by high school, he said he was smaller than his peers and decided to stop playing the sport. Even so, he remained a passionate fan of the game and his Rams, even as the team moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis back to Los Angeles.
And now, for his team to be playing in the Super Bowl here Atlanta, where he has lived his entire life, well, Farris could barely contain his enthusiasm.
Smiling broadly, he walked around the Super Bowl Experience at the Georgia World Congress Center soaking in the atmosphere of a football theme park spread across 800,000 square feet of space. He stood in line to get an autograph from Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (and asked Freeman if maybe he wanted to play for the Rams. Freeman emphatically said ‘No’ multiple times shaking his head).
Farris took in all of the sights from the Super Bowl Experience over the weekend — from mock drafts and a simulation of an NFL locker room to the Vince Lombardi Trophy which sits gleaming behind a Plexiglas cube.
“This is a dream come true for me,” said Farris, now 56, wearing a Rams baseball cap and team jersey.
— Helena Oliviero
Jakob Brothers’ small pub has big neighbor: ‘Death Star’ stadium
At the downtown Elliott Street Deli and Pub, Mike and Peter Jakob measure their business in sandwiches-per-hour, and so far, despite having their regular customer supply choked off, things are pretty good.
Yes, the federal office building next door has been mostly vacant for the past six weeks, due to the shutdown. But the ESP (as they call it) found a new clientele in the carpenters, lighting and sound guys drawn to town during preparations for the Super Bowl.
On Friday a steady stream of Super Bowl roustabouts bought sandwiches at the ESP, as the brothers tasted the beers they’ll be serving at the upcoming festivities.
They are ideally positioned to enjoy the party. This little 700-square-foot tavern is in the shadow of what their patrons call “The Death Star,” the hulking, interstellar Mercedes-Benz Stadium parked in their backyard. You could throw a rock over the Mitchell Street viaduct, and on game-day it will land in some high-roller’s tailgate barbecue.
Get the latest at ajc.com/53
For the big game, the Jakob brothers are keeping things simple: they’re having a party in the small lot next to their 150-year-old building (a former carriage works) and partnering with Athens brewery Creature Comforts.
Not averse to capitalizing on the moment, both have moved out of their apartments, which are directly above the bar, to fix them up and rent them out to Super Bowl visitors.
They’re not leaving town however. Peter has a place in the Old Fourth Ward and Mike is in Midtown. And they recommend you stay in town, too.
“Don’t be afraid of downtown,” said Mike. “When the city puts on these major events it creates an energy in the city that you’ve never seen before. Get out. Walk around. You’re going to meet somebody new.”
— Bo Emerson
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.