Super Bowl parents feel the joys, worries of their sons

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SARASOTA - As John and Jim Harbaugh get closer to facing each other in the Super Bowl, their parents have been very much in the spotlight themselves. Watching your son -- or sons -- in the Super Bowl can be as nerve-racking as it is rewarding, as these Suncoast parents can attest.

“And all Saturday night, I’m tossing and turning. Me and the wife go downstairs, but you can't go outside because it was snowing a lot out there,” says Sam Shields, Jr., father of Booker High grad and Green Bay Packer Sam Shields, III.

It is not just the actual participants that get nervous before the big game. And with the big stage comes much responsibility for parents of players in the Super Bowl.

“It's almost a surreal feeling to begin with, because your son is going to be on the biggest sports platform there is for football. And so it was exciting, it was nerve-racking, there was a lot of coordinating of family and friends,” says Patti Johnson, mother of Riverview grad and former NFL defensive back Todd Johnson.

It might even be more difficult to watch than it is to play, because as a parent, you have no control over the situation. “I think I was more nervous for the whole team rather than just for my son. But it was so exciting that I just couldn't wait for it to happen,” says Johnson.

With two Harbaugh sons involved in this year’s game, that almost doubles the amount of family and friends who want to be involved, get tickets, or just be around the family this week. “Everybody is asking these questions: Can I get a ticket, can I do this, can we do that? And actually, we didn't know what we could do,” says Shields.

Former Chicago Bear Todd Johnson had help from mom, and his wife, when confronted with a somewhat local Super Bowl back in 2007. “By the time Wednesday hit, I was done being the ticket master, I was done arranging dinners or parties or hotel rooms, and my wife took control over that. Obviously the family’s going to get together and party at a restaurant or a hotel or somewhere. And you can go to that, but you can’t stay until 11, 12, one o’clock at night and keep partying with them. You’ve got to tell them ‘bye bye, I love you. I’m getting ready to win a football game’,” says Todd.

In addition to acting as "traffic cops" for visits and buffers for ticket requests, parents like Patti and Sam, Jr. also have to be "the heavy" when requests and visits cannot be accommodated.