FORT WALTON BEACH — Sam Lombardo’s Super Bowl LIV surprise didn’t end with the final tick of the clock at Hard Rock Stadium on Feb. 2.
On Tuesday, Lombardo’s mail included an elegant coin and a heartfelt letter from National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, memorializing the retired Army lieutenant colonel’s participation in the coin toss for the contest between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
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Lombardo was one of four 100-year-old World War II veterans chosen by the NFL to participate in the coin toss, to mark both the 75th anniversary of the end of that war, and the 100th year of the NFL.
"I just went to the mail and saw this yesterday," Lombardo said in a brief visit to the Daily News office, displaying the coin and the letter as he waited for copies of the Daily News featuring the tale of his time at the Super Bowl.
"It was a real shock," he said. "A real surprise."
The thick silver coin, though not the official coin used for the game-day coin toss, features the NFL logo for its 100th anniversary offset in gold on one side, and the Super Bowl trophy and Goodell’s signature on the other side. Around the NFL logo are the words "A Game That Inspires Us. A Game That Brings Us Together."
Lombardo said that after his return from the Super Bowl, people were curious as to whether he had been given a coin. And while he was clearly excited to add the Goodell coin to his collection of dozens of military coins, Lombardo was at least equally as moved by Goodell’s letter.
"It’s the best letter I’ve ever gotten from anybody," he said.
In addition to telling Lombardo the NFL was honored to have him and the other three World War II veterans at the game, the letter called Lombardo "an inspiration to everyone."
Lombardo said he plans to write Goodell a letter in return, although it won’t have quite the same flair as the commissioner’s letter.
"I have no coins to send him," Lombardo lamented.
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