NORFOLK — For the first time, a Monarch is a Super Bowl winner.
Rick Lovato, a 2015 graduate of Old Dominion University and the long snapper for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, will be honored at a men’s basketball game on March 1.
The game, against Florida Atlantic University, will start at 7 p.m.
Lovato is the first Monarch to play in a professional football game and the first in a Super Bowl.
After the Eagles’ upset 41-33 victory against the New England Patriots Sunday night, Lovato tweeted a photo of himself holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which is awarded to the winning team in the Super Bowl.
— Rick Lovato (@TheSnappingLife) February 5, 2018
He told NorthJersey.com, “I ran around in circles for, like, 20 minutes and just started crying like crazy. I’m a Super Bowl champ. Unbelievable.”
“Great kid, great family,” said ODU President John R. Broderick, who was pulling for the Patriots because he grew up in Connecticut and attended Northeastern University in Boston. Broderick texted Lovato before the game. “I told him I will still root for the Patriots, but for the Eagles to be successful on all of his snaps.”
In an interview with The Virginian-Pilot last month, Lovato said: “I can’t even grasp that this is happening. I’ve dreamed about playing in the Super Bowl all my life.”
Lovato said he still talks with some of his former ODU coaches. “I’m proud to represent Old Dominion. I’m grateful for what so many people there did for me.”
Lovato’s job is to snap the ball before punts, field goals or extra point attempts. He described the experience this way in an article last year in Monarch magazine:
“You’re bent over, looking between your legs, and blood rushes to your head. And behind the punter or the field goal holder, you can see what looks like the entire stadium, wondering if you’ll make a mistake.
“You just have to block all that out and focus on your job.”
Wood Selig, Old Dominion’s athletic director, said, “There are many college football programs who have never had an alumnus play in the biggest sporting event of the year, yet after just nine seasons of football, ODU was represented by Rick on football’s biggest stage.”
Lovato was a defensive end in high school, but switched to long snapping his junior year to get more playing time. He continued in that position during his time at Old Dominion.
In the NFL, Lovato didn’t start with the Eagles.
The Green Bay Packers picked him up in 2015. They cut him in 2016. Lovato was called up by the Washington Redskins later that year as an injury replacement. He was released after two games, but finished the 2016-17 season with the Eagles.
And he’s been snapping for them ever since.
“Rick Lovato is an incredible story of character and the will to succeed,” said Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion’s head football coach. “He came to Old Dominion on a partial scholarship and earned a full scholarship with outstanding performance on and off the field. He was a great teammate in every way possible.”
Lovato, Wilder said, has held true to his values: “To see how he has handled success has been a tribute to Rick and his family, and we are all very proud to see Rick become the first ever Monarch to play in the Super Bowl.”