NFL Play 60 winner Hunter Paulin wasn’t the biggest story of Super Bowl Sunday, but he could have been if you looked hard enough.
Sure the glitz and glamour, Super Bowl parties and crazy commercials will catch your attention, but Paulin’s story is one that transcends all of that.
His role was small, delivering the game ball before kickoff, but his struggle certainly hasn’t been.
The 10-year-old Maryland fourth grader has already endured more pain and adversity than many in the world will meet in their entire lifetime.
Paulin won the Quaker Oats’ Play 60 contest after being identified as an incredible individual because of overcoming that adversity. He has lived an admirable lifestyle after being born with six congenital heart defects and undergoing four open heart surgeries.
He’s come out of it all relatively unscathed, too.
The youngster can exercise despite the fragile condition of his heart and takes advantage of that on a daily basis. Although he is limited to non-physical athletics, so football isn't in his future.
It’s truly inspiring to see someone go through so much and still be able to maintain active and positive about his situation.
Whether he’s too young to know any different, or not, Paulin is an inspiration for not just kids but for all of us. How many of us, who are perfectly healthy, struggle to find time to live healthy and active lifestyles?
This story brings out the best in our humanity because it’s something that we can’t necessarily relate to or understand. As a result we’re intrigued and feel sympathy for this young man.
Did CBS and the NFL do Paulin's story justice?
That sympathy and intrigue leads to a greater collective awareness. If Paulin’s story inspires just one person to change their life it could be labeled as a success. It will undoubtedly have that effect given the magnitude of his struggle.
At the end of the day, the Super Bowl is just a football game. Paulin’s journey is a dose of reality for all of us tuning in at home.
The NFL and CBS should be commended for making this happen, although they fell a little short of truly pushing the envelope with this story.