BEACON FALLS — A local man’s skills at fantasy football made a trip to the Super Bowl a reality.
Federico Martinez, 19, of Beacon Falls is going to Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., as the winner of Lenovo’s second-annual Fantasy Coach of the Year contest.
“I tried to explain to myself at one point what it meant to me because never in a million years, in any scenario, in any hypothetical, did I ever think I would get to go to a Super Bowl,” Martinez said.
This prize is extra special for Martinez because, not only is he going to the biggest NFL game of the year, but he will get to see his favorite team, the New England Patriots, play.
“I know people have written them off because they are playing the defending champions. They’ve had struggles over the past few years. I’ve never seen any team play, but the fact that it is the Patriots and the Super Bowl all in one feels like the biggest joy ever. I’m looking forward to seeing my favorite players step on the field, especially Tom Brady,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s trip to the Super Bowl started in 2012 when he first learned about fantasy football.
“After school one day I went over to a friend’s house when I noticed he was playing fantasy football. I had no clue what it was at that time, so he introduced me to it and walked me through what you had to do and the point of the game. So, I figured next year I’d try it out,” Martinez said.
Martinez said he immediately enjoyed fantasy football because it combined his love of football with his passion for playing games.
“It’s basically watching football and picking some of the players, whether you know them or not, and hoping those players do well. That’s how I explain it to some of the newer guys,” Martinez said.
In 2013, Martinez created his own league with his friends. The league continued on into the 2014 season, when Martinez started doing really well.
“It was very fun to play because, truth be told, I didn’t even know the Lenovo contest was a thing. I was just playing to have fun with friends and because it made watching football that much more interesting. Not only are you routing for your team, but you have an added incentive to boo the other guy’s team. It really added an extra element of fun when watching the game because it felt like you were participating in it a little,” Martinez said.
Martinez said he did not find out about the contest until the after the 14th week of the regular season. He was looking on NFL.com, which he uses to play fantasy football, and noticed a link to the leader board called “Coach of the Year.” After clicking on the link he found out that he wasn’t just in first place in his league, but was the top player among everyone who participates in fantasy football through NFL.com.
“At the time I was number one in the world by a pretty large margin, about 5 or 6 percent. I thought ‘No way.’ I had no idea what that meant, I just figured that meant I was doing a pretty darn good job,” Martinez said.
Martinez began to read the rules and what it meant for him to be in first place. That was when he discovered the Lenovo competition, which top prizes were a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl and to the Super Bowl.
“After reading it I said, ‘If this is real I really have to try, I have to go all in for this,’” Martinez said.
However, Martinez dropped to fifth place during week 15. He rose up to third place the next couple weeks and thought that the competition was over for him.
“I was so disappointed because I was so close. I just needed a few more points,” Martinez said.
However, after all the points were tallied, Martinez finished in second place, which was enough to win him a trip to the Pro Bowl to face off against the first-place winner, Scott Jordan, 48, of Nazareth, Pa.
Martinez and Jordan flew out to Arizona Jan. 19 to participate in the Pro Bowl draft and to help choose the players for the two teams. Martinez assisted Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin to put together a team for the Pro Bowl. Jordan helped Hall of Fame wide receiver Chris Carter pick his team.
“I was in shock and in disbelief because I was sitting in a room with 80 NFL players,” Martinez said.
Last Friday, Martinez and Jordan were on the sidelines, watching both teams practice. After the practice they both got players to sign footballs for them
“It was hands down the greatest experience of my life,” Martinez said. “This was, with no doubt in my mind, the greatest trip of my life. Everything and every aspect was just amazing.”
Martinez and Jordan then put together a fantasy team using players from Team Irvin and Team Carter, respectively, to go head to head in the Pro Bowl on Sunday.
Martinez’s fantasy team, which included the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford, New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., and Denver Broncos’ C.J. Anderson, came out on top and earned him a Super Bowl trip.
“I was pretty excited. I won’t lie, after the game was over and it was official, I cried a little bit. It was so nerve-wracking and so exciting. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact I was going to the Super Bowl,” Martinez said.
Martinez said knowing he is headed to the Super Bowl means a lot to him.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. I’ve never been to any football game prior to the Pro Bowl. You’d figure a sports fanatic like myself would go to sports games, but it never happened,” Martinez said.
While the trip to the Super Bowl would be enough, Martinez has the extra bonus of getting to watch his favorite team play.
“Not only is it the Super Bowl, the biggest game of the year, but the Pats are in it. I’ve been routing to the Pats for the better half of a decade and we finally get to go to the Super Bowl, and it’s one I get to go to. It’s one of the greatest feelings ever. I’m so honored. I’m so lucky to get to go to the biggest game with my favorite team,” Martinez said.