MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A south Minneapolis youth football team will be attending Super Bowl LII, thanks to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
It was the story of Isaiah and Zaevion Henderson, both 13, that caught the attention of Sports Illustrated, and the attention of Goodell.
“Isaiah had some physical abuse,” said the boy’s aunt, Telyse Henderson. “He was in foster care for a couple of weeks. I found out so I took him right away.”
This all happened in 2008 and 2009.
According to the Pioneer Press, Zaevion’s mother, Johanna Hollis, was shot and killed in a Minneapolis home on 17th Avenue South in 2008 as she held Zaevion in her arms.
Hollis’ eldest daughter, Lysandra Gonzalez, told the Pioneer Press in 2008:
“She had her son in her hand, the 3-year-old, and put all the babies in the kitchen, and when she was standing by the doorway, the bullet grazed my cousin in the face and hit my mom in her artery.”
Their father’s sister, Telyse Henderson, later adopted the two. She lived across the street from Phelps Field Park in south Minneapolis, where Pastor Jim Halbur runs a youth football league called Phelps Falcons.
“They’re both now in seventh and eighth grade, both playing football and their key contributors to the team, and leaders,” said Pastor Jim. “They’re great kids.”
On Sunday, the boys were invited to the Vikings-Packers game, where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surprised not only the brothers, but also the entire Falcons team with Super Bowl tickets. Zaevion could not believe it.
“I didn’t know what to say,” said Zaevion. “I thought he was just joking.”
“I’ve dreamed of going to the Super Bowl, but I always knew I probably wouldn’t go,” said Isaiah. “Just the fact that knowing I’m going to go this year is a big blessing for me.”
The boy’s aunt says football overall has really been the blessing in their lives. Zaevion and Isaiah say before football, they were getting in to trouble at school and now they are doing better.
“Now I know that there’s other people out there who care, besides my family,” said Zaevion.