The gesture seemed like a nice feel-good story heading into Super Bowl week.
Veteran Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman was donating his beloved pickup truck as the prize in a drawing to benefit victims of human trafficking.
There was a tweet: ”You know what I love more than my truck? My Freedom! Join me in fighting for those who don’t have it!”
There was a website: ShermFightsForFreedom.org.
There was a detailed promotional plan. Athletes and celebrities lined up on Twitter to spread the word about the giveaway.
And there was a twist.
The idea to give away the tricked-out 2017 Ford F250 King Ranch truck for charity wasn’t Sherman’s at all. In fact, he didn’t even know about his own benevolence until a couple of hours after the campaign kicked off Saturday with a tweet from his account while he was on the practice field.
Instead, it was an epic elaborate prank, staged by former big-league first baseman Adam LaRoche, with help from former Patriots lineman Matt Light, several Chiefs players and others — all to pay back Sherman for his own mischievous deed a month or so earlier.
“I zeroed in on the truck, because I knew it was his baby,” LaRoche explained over the phone to the Tampa Bay Times. “I was just trying to figure out a creative way. That’s when I thought, we’re going to give it away in a sweepstakes kind of way that can raise some money.”
Sherman started the prank war, deciding he had seen his buddy LaRoche prank enough people around the E3 Ranch that LaRoche runs in Fort Scott, Kan., which provides a retreat for former and active military, and on his Buck Commander hunting show on the Outdoor Network.
Knowing of LaRoche’s sweet spot for Oreos, Sherman made a stop on a recent visit to the ranch, picking up a pallet of cookie packages. When LaRoche took some soldiers out on a hunt, Sherman opened the sun roof of LaRoche’s truck, unwrapped the cookies and dropped them — more than 12,000 — into the cab. LaRoche is still finding some in the vents.
“I always see him pranking guys on the show, and no one ever gets him back, so I was going to take it upon myself to get him back,” Sherman said Thursday. “It turned out to be a bad idea.”
After choosing to target Sherman’s truck, LaRoche had to devise a plan and decided to go big. He consulted with Light and others to come up with the basic idea, then they organized a massive team effort to pull it off.
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“Epic pranks,” Light said, “are all in the details.”
One group created the website (which links to LaRoche’s E3 Ranch Foundation site); another worked out the details of the giveaway (entries cost a $1 donation, with numerous packages and prizes for bulk purchases); and a third got out the word, recruiting former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and others with large social media followings.
Then, there was the dirty work.
LaRoche needed some inside help, so he enlisted Chiefs long snapper James Winchester and Dustin Colquitt, the team’s longtime punter who had rejoined their practice squad.
Their task, in this Ocean’s Eleven-type scheme, was critical — to get the code to unlock Sherman’s phone and gain access to his Twitter account. Once that was accomplished, with Winchester claiming during a get-together that his phone had died and he needed Sherman’s to return an important call, the rest of the plan fell into place.
The Chiefs advancing to the Super Bowl helped, as Sherman would have to be on the practice field, and thus away from his phone for hours. That created the window they needed to launch, and share, the donation plan.
“The trick to the whole thing was how can we do it to where he can’t back out,” LaRoche said.
When Sherman came off the practice field Saturday, Colquitt was waiting at his locker, saying LaRoche had sent a video that Sherman needed to see. In it, LaRoche explained the whole elaborate plan.
Sherman was still a bit confused, but the responses on his Twitter account and messages on his phone proved it was real. A call to LaRoche on his way home answered any lingering questions. The cause being close to his heart helped Sherman accept it.
“It didn’t take long,” Sherman said. “I realized that I really didn’t have any options, so you better buy in and enjoy the ride that this is going to take us on. … It’s obviously my baby, and I take care of it, but it is just a truck. And if we can raise a ton of money for a great cause, it will be well worth it, for sure.”
LaRoche and Light were content to play along, even doing a series of interviews touting Sherman’s generosity. But when Sherman shared Tuesday on The Pat McAfee Show that he had been the victim of a prank, LaRoche and Light were happy to fill in the details.
Plus, it has been good for the cause. Donations have surpassed $100,000, Light said, and with prizes from musicians Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, Chiefs stars Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes, and more to come, they are aiming to surpass $250,000 before the Feb. 19 drawing, with proceeds to LaRoche’s foundation.
LaRoche and Light, who became close years ago, said they aren’t too concerned about Sherman retaliating but will be ready if he does. Light, who played with Bucs quarterback Tom Brady in New England, said that after orchestrating this prank, the two might want to try something similar again.
“If there’s any guys down there close to Tommy and know what he’s driving, send us some pictures,” Light said. “We can post one of his vehicles, too.”
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