The answer: Rob Ninkovich.
Rob, 32, is the defensive end for the NFL’s New England Patriots. He’s also an experienced ironworker. Rob played in football’s biggest game in 2012 and 2015, and narrowly missed a third chance after the Patriots lost a 2016 Super Bowl spot to the Denver Broncos last month.
Born and raised in Illinois, Rob comes from a line of ironworkers. His father, Mike, is a (now retired) ironworker, as is Rob’s maternal grandfather and several cousins.
Rob worked on projects in Illinois, trying to make extra money during the summers between college semesters. One job saw Rob dangling from a harness, suspended over water while working on a bridge — during the night shift. On another, Rob and his dad worked together to install beams on a 20-storey high building.
But while ironworking seems to be a family point of pride — Rob told the Providence Journal he grew up learning values from his ironworker fatherlike “work hard, do your best and never give up” — both Rob and his parents wanted something different for his life.
He played football in high school, struggled to find a college to play at afterwards, and was eventually drafted by the New Orleans Saints. “It’s all through believing in yourself. I always had a belief that I could do it,” Rob told the Providence Journal. “I wouldn’t even say it’s an underdog story, because I always knew I was a good football player. I needed an opportunity.”
Had the Patriots beat the Broncos, Rob would’ve been going for his second Super Bowl win. And if 2015 numbers are any indication, more than 9 million Canadians would’ve been watching. Last year’s Canadian viewership of the Super Bowl destroyed all previous records by 13 per cent.