How do you get to the Super Bowl for free? Work for the National Football League, of course. Cara Luterek '00, a Player Personnel Coordinator for the NFL, has attended the last five Super Bowls, and really appreciates her Super Bowl perk.
"Super Bowl is always a neat experience," exclaims Luterek, "because it is where some of the biggest names in football all gather in preparation of this huge event. Most of my job is looking at contracts. Then I walk into the green room and it's like—that really is Jerry Rice and Joe Montana and Reggie Bush in there!"
Her road to the Super Bowl began by interning with the Buffalo Bills while she studied corporate communication at Ithaca College. In April 2002 she was drafted herself into NFL headquarters where she manages the College Advisory Committee, a program for college underclassmen who are deciding whether to enter the NFL draft or stay in school to complete their college education. Luterek coordinates this program with NFL general managers, personnel directors and college coaches.
This April will be her 7th NFL draft, and she calculates at this point that she has sat through over 100 hours of drafts. In preparation, she will assist in the researching of draft eligibility for over 1,000 players. After the spring draft ritual, she reviews and analyzes player contracts to ensure teams are in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement and salary cap. She also provides assistance to club executives pertaining to contracts, personnel procedures, and roster rules as well as producing annual reports for the Competition Committee.
But it’s not all paperwork. "The fun stuff this year included attending practice sessions for the East-West Shrine game in Houston, a college all-star game attended by NFL scouts and coaches," says Luterek. "I will be attending the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where the very best college football players are invited to participate in physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers, and scouts."
And then there is the apogee of all fun stuff—the Super Bowl. "For the past 5 years, I have been a team leader at the NFL Experience—a big all-football theme park—at the Super Bowl site. It's a big change from my regular job, and is very hard work but a lot of fun. I coordinate player appearances at events like football 101 and youth football clinics. The players do a great job for us. I also work with an official on a referee clinic where kids view an instant replay and try to make the correct call on a close play."
Not all of the NFL Experience is glamorous though. Some of the day is just walking around with a headset and fixing a sign that is hanging upside down or making sure that the lines for the different activities are flowing. "I've learned to always keep a supply of sharpies on me for autographs because they disappear like crazy and everyone always needs one."
One of the big highlights of the NFL Experience for Luterek is Kids' Day, where 2,000 local school children come and try a variety of activities. "Players sign autographs and help the kids throw and catch passes, kick field goals, and run through training camp obstacle courses. For some kids, it is their first time ever holding a football."
All these activities though are just a warm up to the main event. "There is nothing quite like game day," claims Luterek. "No matter how busy the week was, how tired your legs are, how many times you have been asked where the bathrooms are, there is just an electricity in the air that is hard to describe. It's like Christmas morning, your birthday, and the last day of school all rolled into one day. It's what you have worked all season for. Despite what most people think, there is no off season in the NFL. From making sure all those players were draft eligible, to the draft, free agency, mini camps and training camp, preseason and roster cutdowns, kickoff and the regular season—feeling the highs and lows right along with the playoff teams—and now here we finally are at the Super Bowl. This is what it's all about—overcoming adversity and the pursuit of victory, celebrating our game on its grandest stage. You can't help but feel like you are a part of something special. It's an incredible experience."