CAPITAL REGION — Guilderland’s Colleen Edwards has always resisted.
Football friends have asked her to join their ranks, and root for the blue and red of the Buffalo Bills or New York Giants.
Edwards has remained loyal to the red and yellow — and retained her longtime allegiance to the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s party time for Edwards and other Chiefs fans, who will watch their American Football Conference champs take on the National Football Conference’s champs — the San Francisco 49ers — in Super Bowl LIV. Friends will gather locally Sunday afternoon for the 6:30 p.m. kickoff, with plates full of chili, chicken wings, pizza and vegetables at the ready.
Edwards will watch in Miami, inside the city’s Hard Rock Stadium — the site of the big game. She and three other local residents on Wednesday were presented tickets to the mid-winter spectacular, packages won during last weekend’s 60th anniversary “518gives Fundraiser” to benefit the Center for Disability Services.
Edwards and travelling companion Leslie Taft of Guilderland joined Aldo Vignolesi of Rotterdam and Jason Jones of Ballston Lake during a ticket presentation ceremony at the Center for Disability Services center in Albany.
Sadie Dutcher, 6, a student at the Center’s Langan School, smiled as she handed out the ticket packages.
The Edwards-Taft and Vignolesi-Jones teams submitted the highest silent auction bids for the FOX network VIP packages, which include airfare, hotel accommodations, parties, breakfasts, dinners, a Lady Gaga concert, tailgate brunch and the big game. The winners declined to disclose their winning bid amounts.
Edwards, who has worked as a recreational therapist at the center for the past 31 years, has been a Chiefs fans since the team’s first Super Bowl appearance. She was 10 years old when the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in the fourth and final AFL-NFL World Championship Game (the Super Bowl) on Jan. 11, 1970. The two leagues merged into one after the game.
Edwards said her father served in the military. While the family moved around — stops included Hawaii, Guam, Florida and Arizona — Edwards kept following her crimson-clad football favorites.
She cheered for her team through her teens and 20s, through young adulthood and into middle age — all years without another Super Bowl appearance.
“I’ve waited 50 years for this opportunity to see my team in the Super Bowl in person,” she said.
Edwards wore a red “15” Patrick Mahomes jersey to the presentation event. Mahomes, KC’s well-regarded young quarterback and a major reason Chiefs fans believe their team will tame the 49ers.
Edwards is well known for her devotion. Bumper stickers, flags and hats are in her collection.
“I have a memorabilia room of Kansas City Chiefs stuff, autographed helmets, footballs, flags, hats,” she said. “I go to a game every year, I’ve been on the field, I’ve been in the press box.”
One of Edwards’ prize possessions is an “Edwards” jersey emblazoned with the number 59 — one of Donnie Edwards’ numbers when he played linebacker for Kansas City.
“That was the year I was born,” Edwards said. “Edwards is my last name and Donnie Edwards played for the Chiefs and he signed it. I’ve got that one at home.”
Taft is a New England Patriots fans, and she knows how popular the Patriots are these days. “Everybody hates them,” she said.
Like Edwards, Taft has enjoyed her time at Kansas City games.
“The fans are really awesome,” she said. “Even if you’re cheering for another team, they’re very respectful. In some stadiums, it’s a little dicey if you’re for another team.”
Vignolesi has been to the Super Bowl before — the Patriots-Philadelphia Eagles confrontation in 2018. That trip also came through the Center for Disability Services, and included all the perks that come with this weekend’s adventure.
One of the extras is mingling with former and current football players. “You get to actually see how they live,” said Vignolesi, who works as a landscaper. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”
Vignolesi cheers for the Bills every autumn and winter, and believes years of misery are over for Buffalo fans. “We’re on track now,” he said of the team, which lost in overtime to the Houston Texans in the opening round of the playoffs.
Jones will make the trip with his friend. He’s also been to the big game in the past.
“There are some times when you’re there that you actually can’t believe you’re at the Super Bowl,” said Jones, who oversees the parking and transportation department at the University at Albany. “It’s a very surreal experience, the game goes by so fast when you’re there … these opportunities in life should not be taken for granted.”
While the winner of Super Bowl LIV is still unknown, officials at the Center for Disability Services are happy with their recent victory — a record amount of $2,309,629 was raised during the 518gives Fundraiser.
“When the community donates to the center, the money stays in the Capital Region and North Country for the benefit of the center’s students, adult program participants, residents and patients,” said Gregory Sorrentino, president and CEO of the center. “The center’s unique programs and services are comprehensive and are often not available elsewhere under the same roof, as they are here at the center.
“We see about 12,000 people annually at all our locations; we have over 80 locations.”
Contact Gazette staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]