SAN FRANCISCO — Nanette Prolo and Paula Piatt had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into.
Prolo and Piatt had won one of Verizon’s Minute50 prizes, a prize for a promotional campaign that asked fans to text a number every hour on the 50th minute while Super Bowl City, the massive fan experience in the heart of downtown San Francisco, was open.
All they’d been told was that they won a personal NFL experience. For a while, Prolo and Piatt assumed they’d won tickets to Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, figuring it couldn’t get any more personal than that.
Instead they found themselves standing in the middle of San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night, back turned to whatever might come.
Then Prolo heard a familiar voice.
“I thought to myself, I know this voice,” Prolo said. “And we turn around, and he had his helmet on, and we knew it was Drew right away.”
Prolo and Piatt, a pair of sisters from the Bay Area, had won a chance to catch passes from Brees for more than an hour in Kezar Stadium, the historic stadium that housed the 49ers from 1946-1970 and briefly served as the home of the Raiders in 1960.
Prolo is 63, Piatt is 54 and a half, in her words.
But they were both athletes in their younger days, playing everything from flag football early to tennis and golf a little bit later.
“I was impressed,” Brees said. “They threw the gloves on and were running around.”
Prolo and Piatt proved to be pretty good athletes, hauling in passes from Brees like a couple of naturals. When the camera crew there to record the experience asked them to catch deep balls from Brees that traveled 30 to 40 yards in the air, both Prolo and Piatt hauled their throws in on the first try.
Brees has spent his Super Bowl week on the move, making appearances for companies like Microsoft, Verizon and FedEx, popping up in the craziness of Radio Row and joking with fellow NFL stars like J.J. Watt and Brett Favre.
Tossing passes to Prolo and Piatt will end up being one of the highlights of his week.
“This is fun, because it’s genuine,” Brees said. “You can see how excited the two sisters were when I came on the field, and how they’ve been following me, referencing my Purdue football days. Said I was one of their favorites next to Joe Montana, and hey, that’s pretty good company to be in. All of that makes this pretty unique versus anything else.”
Prolo and Piatt are huge football fans, fans who follow the 49ers and Raiders naturally because they’re always on TV, the Vikings because the two sisters were born in Minnesota, and then the Saints because they feel a deep connection to New Orleans.
One of Prolo’s sons was a junior at Loyola when Hurricane Katrina hit, and both Prolo and Piatt were in the Crescent City that weekend to help him move into the dorm.
“We were there to help move her son into school,” Pliatt said. “And then we had to get him out of school.”
Prolo’s son went to Nacogdoches, Texas with his roommate, and Prolo and Piatt left in a rental car late that Sunday night. In Januray, they returned again to move him back into school after he missed a semester at Loyola because of the hurricane.
When the Saints signed Brees, the signing put one of their favorite cities together with one of their favorite players.
“It’s always cool when you have that personal connection, different than connecting with somebody on social media, that kind of thing,” Brees said. “This is very personal. ... New Orleans has a special place in their heart, which, obviously, it does for me, too.”
And now, Prolo and Piatt’s connection with the Saints is even more personal, all courtesy of a couple of text messages.
“We thought it would be a Super Bowl ticket,” Piatt said. “This is so much better.”