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News and notes from Super Bowl XLIII

Ron Lawrence turned his garage into a Cowboys shrine.


Ron Lawrence turned his garage into a Cowboys shrine.

Fantasy football worth $300,000 to retired farmer

Poochie Bennish was a retired chicken farmer looking for something to occupy his time. This week, he was to receive a $300,000 check for his newfound diversion — fantasy football.

Bennish, a native of Tarzana, Calif., won the World Championship of Fantasy Football Main Event competition, riding Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to emerge from 2,000 teams each with a $1,800 buy-in to claim the top prize.

He was to be presented with a check Friday by ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber at the ESPN set in Channelside.

The World Championship of Fantasy Football, from St. Louis, is run by two players-turned-owners, Dustin Ashby and Jesse Herron. The two bought the company in 2007, but it has operated for seven years.

Next year, WCOFF will pay out about $2 million in prizes, from satellite leagues that cost as little as $125 to a celebrity platinum league with a $25,000 buy-in.

Ashby said Bennish's win came down to less than a point and went down to the Packers-Bears game in Week 16, the last week of the playoffs.

Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer

Plant football gets Super shot, thanks to NBC

The state champion Plant High football team will help make sure all of NBC's camera angles are perfect in preparation for Sunday's game.

Fresh off the high of winning the Class 4A state title a month ago, the Panthers participated in a simulation Friday at Raymond James Stadium.

NBC Sunday Night Football producer Fred Guadelli, the producer of Super Bowl XLIII, is doing his third Super Bowl but his first for NBC. And he asked for the help from a local high school team in preparing to produce his past two Super Bowls — Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XXXVII, won by the Bucs in San Diego six years ago.

"We have extra equipment, cameras and people who haven't all worked together," Guadelli said. "And we want to see how the players look and the cameras look at night."

Guadelli selected Plant with the help of Reid Sigmon, executive director of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee, and the Bucs, who have a weekly award for an area high school football coach during the fall.

On Tuesday, former Los Angeles Rams and USC coach John Robinson ran through plays with the Plant players.

Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer

Cowboys fan in for experience

Ron Lawrence is a Cowboys fan stuck in the middle of Redskins country.

And now after winning the DirecTV Ultimate Displaced Fan Search, he will meet one of his favorite players, play football with celebrities and attend the Super Bowl.

Lawrence was selected from fans across the country who submitted entries that included essays, videos and photos proving they were the ultimate displaced fan. In his entry, Lawrence, a 39-year-old U.S. Postal Service truck driver from Chesapeake, Va., gave a tour of his two-car garage, which he turned into a Cowboys shrine. Jerseys, helmets and other memorabilia hang on the walls, the room includes a beer tap, and the floor actually looks like turf.

"Some people call it a Cowboys museum," Lawrence said.

Part of Lawrence's prize will be meeting Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jason Witten. And he will meet the contest's spokesman, Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Then he will play in the DirecTV Beach Bowl celebrity game this afternoon at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.

"I'll be the only guy nobody will know," Lawrence joked. "People will look down and say, 'Who's that guy?' It's pretty awesome. I didn't know that was a part of the prize. But to be on national TV like that, I'm telling all my friends to watch."

And Lawrence won tickets to Sunday's game.

Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer

Former USF star Jenkins serves as pal's chauffeur

How big is the Super Bowl? First-round picks are helping out as on-call chauffeurs.

Former USF cornerback Mike Jenkins, who just finished his rookie season with the Cowboys, laughs about it, but he has told the Cardinals' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, one of his closest friends since childhood growing up in Bradenton, that he'll drive him around town.

"I told him if he needs anything, I'll come and get him," said Jenkins, who missed the playoffs in his first season in Dallas. "He's like my brother, so we have to look out for each other."

Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins talked regularly throughout the draft process in the spring and through their rookie seasons. They would text each other if one got an interception, helping each other as both went through the same difficult transition.

"I've leaned on him, asked him questions, him being from a bigger school, because he's used to talking in interviews, getting attention," said Rodgers-Cromartie, who went to Tennessee State. "I talk to him almost every day. We're real close. We played on all the Little League teams together, and we would have played together in high school, but I moved. We've always stayed in touch."

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

McNabb: Cards' success hinges on Whisenhunt

Donovan McNabb knows Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt well. The Eagles quarterback lives two houses down from Whisenhunt in Arizona.

And McNabb, whose Eagles lost to the Cardinals two weeks ago in the NFC Championship Game, says that Arizona is a much different team than the one the Eagles beat on Thanksgiving. The reason? The Cardinals have taken the personality of their coach.

"I'm just seeing a more confident team," McNabb said Friday. "I'm seeing a team that's getting better and better. I'm seeing a team that's buying into the system of Ken Whisenhunt. He's a guy I know pretty well. He's a guy who wants this team to be relaxed and to play at a high level. He has a lot of athletes, and he's put them in the position to be very effective."

McNabb and his parents, Sam and Wilma, are in town to raise awareness about high blood pressure, which both parents have. "It's no different than being in a game and they're the quarterbacks and they have to manage their game the right way," he said. "My parents, they've kind of been the poster children, and they've done the right things. I'm just excited about it as a son."

Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer

News and notes from Super Bowl XLIII 01/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 9:49pm]
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