NFL fan from Hawaii gets to announce pick at draft
By RACHEL COHEN
AP Sports Writer
By RACHEL COHEN
NEW YORK — The offer popped into Rainier "Onyx" Herrera's inbox: You've won a trip to New York to compete for a chance to attend the Super Bowl and receive $100,000!
"I get the notification via e-mail, which I thought was some kind of crazy scam," he recalled. "I was like, you won the Nigerian lottery in Malaysia, that sort of thing. I was about to dismiss it, then I started reading a little bit more into it: Hey, this seems to be legit."
When Herrera went to his banker in Honolulu to get some contest forms notarized, she was sure it was a fraud. They spent nearly two hours researching the companies involved, even calling the Better Business Bureau. Finally, the bank's vice president came over with the verdict: It was for real.
It was all very real Friday when the 34-year-old Herrera sat at a desk in midtown Manhattan getting yelled at by retired NFL star Michael Strahan in front of a video crew. He beat out 31 other finalists last month in a promotion sponsored by Monster.com and the NFL to become the league's "Director of Fandemonium."
In addition to winning the $100,000, Herrera gets to attend the coin toss at the Super Bowl, call a play at the Pro Bowl and participate in on-field introductions at the London game: New England versus Tampa Bay on Oct. 25.
But first, he'll announce the second-round draft pick Saturday of his beloved Minnesota Vikings.
One problem: Herrera won this contest because he's such a knowledgeable, passionate football fan. What if he looks down at the card and immediately thinks, "That's a terrible pick!"
"I don't want to do that on national TV," he said, promising to be professional. "I'll try to work up as much enthusiasm as possible no matter who they pick."
So how did a guy growing up in Hawaii become a Vikings fan? With no local franchise to root for, he explained, kids pick a team either because they like the style of play or have relatives living in the city.
Well, Herrera doesn't have any family in Minneapolis.
"I liked those big horn helmets and stuff; I thought that was cool," he said. "When I was kid, I was like, 'OK, I'm going to be a Viking.' Just to be different from everybody else."
He's never attended a Vikings game.
"I've never even been close to the wonderful state of Minnesota," Herrera said. "But now that I've won, I now have the money to do it."
A self-described failed kicker, Herrera last played football as a high school freshman, when he was cut by the junior varsity after accidentally hitting the quarterback in the head. The only team he competed with after that was in the academic bowl.
These days, he takes on a friend in the digital realm. They'll each form a roster of a franchise's all-time great players, then see which would win by running a computer simulation.
Herrera learned about the NFL contest when he saw an ad during the Super Bowl. He rushed to his computer to fill out an entry, then didn't think much about it until he got that e-mail in early March.
He flew to New York later that month for a two-day final that included trivia questions, coin-flip contests and interviews.
Herrera looked right at home recording a video with Strahan on Friday. In fact, it was the TV star/former player who kept flubbing his lines, not the short Homeland Security employee. The Big Apple certainly isn't intimidating to Herrera — he attended New York University.
And he already seems adept at fending off media inquiries: Asked about his job, Herrera mentioned the agency, then added, "That's as much as I can say."
"That's as far as I'll go," he said. "My boss will kill me."