NORWALK, Conn. — A Norwalk man will have a ringside seat and hotel room for Sunday’s Super Bowl in Houston courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott.
Frankie Morales won the hotel brand’s “Super Bowl Sleepover Contest” and will spend Saturday night at a hotel suite inside NRG Stadium courtesy of Courtyard. In the contest, fans submit photos on social media using a hashtag. Morales, who works for World Wrestling Entertainment in Stamford, won for being the most passionate in pursuit of the prize.
“I don’t think ever in my wildest dreams, in my 30 years of being on this planet, that I would have ever imagined that would happen,’’ Morales said when he was presented the award in a surprise announcement hosted by Miles Austin, a former NFL player with the Dallas Cowboys. Morales and Austin are both graduates of Monmouth University in New Jersey. Morales’ favorite team is the Cowboys.
The in-stadium suite where Morales will stay for the Super Bowl with his girlfriend, McKenna Crilley, overlooks the field. Morales and his guest will receive tickets to the game, access to Super Bowl weekend events, a hotel room outside the stadium for Sunday night after the game and other customized in-stadium experiences.
Morales, a Norwalk resident since 2010, will leave for Houston on Friday morning. The prize package includes airfare, meals and “an abundance of surprises,’’ according to Morales. “We’re able to check into the suite on Saturday night and take in all of the glory that is the envy of every football fan out there."
The contest ran from September through early November. Morales submitted his winning entry just days before the deadline. It showed him covered in a pile of Dallas Cowboys jerseys along with scenes of him at various games. The Cowboys were a Super Bowl contender before losing to Green Bay in the National Football Conference playoffs. The New England Patriots meet the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday's Super Bowl.
“I came across it in late September or early October,’’ Morales said. “I thought I should do that and even if don’t win, I’ll just have another Instagram post. I just wanted to be as creative as possible.”
He briefly forgot about the contest, but when he remembered he wanted to show judges his passion for the game, especially the Cowboys.
“I scoped out the hashtag and did some detective work,’’ Morales said. “I saw a lot of on the field experience. I wanted to show something that would get my passion across. I showed a plethora of my gear, and some of the things I’ve acquired at some of the games I’ve gone to. It was a hodgepodge that showed the distance I’m willing to go to support my team.”
The Super Bowl will be the first for Morales, who learned he won the prize when he thought he was headed to a surprise 30th birthday party at Cask Republic in Stamford with Crilley, who is also employed by WWE.
Crilley, who was in on the surprise, convinced Morales they were headed for a date night. Earlier in the evening, Morales had played a Dodgeball game at the Stamford YMCA.
“I was sweaty and had just come from the Dodgeball game, which we won, so it was already a pretty good night,’’ Morales said. “I saw the cameras as we walked into the restaurant and thought maybe they were shooting a local commercial. I had no clue what was going on.”
Even when he started to realize the party was in his honor, he did not instantly recognize Austin. “The irony is because of all the light bulbs going off, the light bulbs in my own head didn’t go off,’’ Morales said. “I was ambushed by light bulbs. Eventually someone said ‘Hey, look over there, it’s Miles Austin.’ It started to sink in that this was the contest. It was an overwhelming puddle of emotions.”
Morales said the only disappointment in winning the prize is not seeing the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. “It makes me breathe a little easier,’’ he said. “I won’t feel any added stress. I’m just going to enjoy the day.”
Click here to watch the surprise announcement with Morales and Austin.