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By W.G. Ramirez

Randy Gatewood will always be one of the greatest athletes to hail from UNLV.

He will also be one of my all-time favorite human beings. Great guy, fantastic football player and a personality most might think Marshawn Lynch could learn from.

I hadn’t spoken with Randy in a couple of decades, until last September, when I caught up with him for a story I wrote for UNLVRebels.com, commemorating the 20-year anniversary of his record-breaking performance while he was playing for the Rebels.

While UNLV lost a marathon on Sept. 17, 1994, 48-38 to Idaho, Gatewood set NCAA single-game records for receptions with a mind-boggling 23 and receiving yards with 363. He conceivably was the reason the Rebel offense stormed back from a 45-10 deficit to nearly defeat the Vandals. Gatewood, who played the slot position in UNLV’s three-wideout formation, caught 13 passes for 207 yards in the fourth quarter alone at Sam Boyd Stadium. The 6-foot senior from Wichita Falls, Texas, also contributed with 56 return yards, giving him 419 all-purpose yards – in one game.

And since I was covering the Rebels at the time, and covered the game for the now-defunct Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the state’s only African-American newspaper at the time, I was delighted at the chance to catch up with him and talk about that game. Now, roughly four months later, I thought it was only fitting to catch up with my old friend for a second time.

Gatewood

Randy Gatewood starred at UNLV and went on to become one of the greatest players in Arena Football League history during a Hall of Fame career.

We spoke early in the week, so he could give me his pick for my annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, but given he resides in Scottsdale, and has been soaking up the Super Bowl atmosphere this past week, I couldn’t think of a better person I’d rather feature as the lead item for this year’s Super Bowl story.

After all, we’re talking about someone who was part of one of UNLV’s best football teams, he won a bowl game with the Rebels, he was an all-time great in the Arena Football League and is now in the organization’s Hall of Fame and he still holds an NCAA record. He epitomized what the sport of football stands for, and has always been a great representative of UNLV’s program.

Retired since 2007, Gatewood is now involved in the fine wine business, working with Quench Fine Wines, a division of Hensley Beverage Company. He is also a sideline reporter for the Arena Football League, so he keeps tabs on plenty of friends he’s played with or against.

“Football is one big fraternity, and being able to still talk to some of those guys, that’s been the most fun for me this week,” Gatewood said. “The Super Bowl undoubtedly is the biggest event in the world. And anytime it comes to your town, and you’re able to be a part of that – meeting up with some of the guys, having some drinks and dinner and sharing stories – that type of thing is what makes it fun.”

Gatewood came close to playing on Sundays, as he spent one camp with the Miami Dolphins, before being released in the final cut before the season started, in 2005. After a year off, he joined the Arizona Rattlers, and became one of the biggest stars the league had ever seen, right along with former UNLV standout Hunkie Cooper. And while he admits the NFL lingered in his head occasionally, the time off between the Dolphins’ camp and jumping to the AFL led him to a life of happiness as a family man, and playing for one of the AFL’s storied franchises.

“There’s no doubt in my mind I had the ability to play on Sundays,” he said. “Basically I chose to be a part of everything surrounding my family and chose to be with my wife and kids. I am happy and content with everything I was able to accomplish.

“And when I look back on my run, and when I chose to walk away from the game of football, I was one year removed from my second Ironman of the Year Award. I knew I was nearing the end of my career … the Rattlers were entering a new era and I felt I had accomplished everything I was going to accomplish in my career. I really felt like there was nothing left for me to accomplish.”

Gatewood was named first-team all-AFL three times, second team three times, he made the all-Ironman team thrice and was named one of the AFL’s all-time 20 greatest players (#17) in 2006. He was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

“I can honestly say I was one of few guys who walked away with no regrets,” Gatewood said.

Now, he enjoys the wine business, soaking up the sun on Scottsdale’s finest golf courses and, of course, entertaining friends, colleagues and clients when the Super Bowl happens to be in Glendale.

“It’s good for the city, good for football and it’s really been a great week,” he said. “The exposure has been amazing.”

And with that, we lead this year’s poll with Gatewood’s pick for the game, after he’s been to all the big events – media-wise and socially – leading up to Sunday’s game.

“The emotional side of it tells me Seattle, but when I look at it from a football sense, I see New England winning this game,” Gatewood said. “What the Pats did during the offseason for their defense, puts them in a good position to win this game. Because now it’s not on Tom Brady’s shoulders, and I think they’re in a good position to win. As I look at his game unfold, New England is the better team. This will come down to coaching, and as much as I respect Pete Carroll, I think Bill Belichick might be the best coach in the NFL today.

“It would be nice to see a back-to-back champion, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if Seattle won. But I think the Pats have the better team and as good as Russell Wilson is, I don’t think Tom Brady is going to lose three Super Bowls in a row.” RANDY’S PICK: Patriots 27, Seahawks 24

———-

As for me, well, I like the defending Super Bowl champs to get it done. We’ve seen tough battles in the NFC Championship the past several years, and to me, that shows the NFC team being battle-tested and better prepared to scrap in the Super Bowl. The NFC champion is on a 5-2 run in the big game, the Seahawks are the defending champs and I don’t think even the Patriots will deflate that this year. MY PICK: Seahawks 23, Patriots 20

———-

This year I separated the picks by team, rather than one long list in alphabetical order. I compiled the picks by either email, text message, phone call, direct message on Instagram or Twitter or some simply replied to my announcements on Twitter by directly tweeting to me. Some included a short blurb, other just a score. Thanks to all who participated!!!

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Mark Anthony, 2013 Men’s Physique Mr. Olympia – Seahawks, 28-14
Kevin Bolinger, Anchor/Reporter FOX TV Las Vegas – Seahawks, 27-20. Seattle establishes Marshawn Lynch early and wins the turnover battle for the repeat.
Cindy Brunson, Fox Sports/Pac 12 Network analyst – Seahawks, 35-31. Hoping for a “Re-Pete” for Seattle. Just like last year, AFC is favored but unlike SB48, this should be crazy close. Seahawks win.
Chet Buchanan, KLUC-FM, Las Vegas – Seahawks, 31-21. Seahawk D scores points and makes the difference! BACK TO BACK! Go Hawks!
Candace Buckner, Indiana Pacers beat writer, Indianapolis Star – Seahawks, 23-20.
Steve Carp, LV Review Journal Senior Writer – Seahawks, 38-24. Russell Wilson bounces back and Seattle goes back-to-back.
Freddie Coleman, ESPN Radio – Seahawks, 24-20
Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press – Seahawks, 22-19
Digital Underground, Hip Hop Group who brought us the Humpty Dance – Seahawks, 48-32
Randy Faehnrich, UNLV’s The Rebel Yell, Senior Staff Writer – Seahawks 27-23. When it comes to close games, I tend to go with who has the better rushing attack on both sides of the ball, and that’s the Hawks.

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player – Seahawks, 20-17. Brady won’t hold up in this one. He will crack. The extra focus and attention by a tandem of good safeties will make it an underperforming day for Gronk. The run will never get going for the Pats and Wilson will only be required to do enough to win the game with Lynch doing what he does.
Mike Gillespie, Sports Anchor ABC Columbia, SC – Seahawks, 27-24
Joe Grande, NBC Sports Radio – Seahawks, 31-17
Ed Graney, LV Review Journal columnist – Seahawks, 27-20. Given their level of trash talking, it doesn’t appear as if the Seahawks need anyone to inflate their balls.
Paul Gutierrez, ESPN NFL Reporter – Seahawks, 31-27. #YouMadBro
Jay Harris, ESPN SportsCenter anchor – Seahawks, 31-27
Robert “DJ R.O.B.” Hathcock, Music Producer – Seahawks, 41-24
Matt Jacob, Editor of Vegas Seven magazine – Seahawks, 24-17
Jay Kornegay, Westgate sportsbook – Seahawks, 23-17

Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press – Seahawks, 27-21
Steve Lavin, Head Coach St. John’s Men’s Basketball – Seahawks 24-20.
Allen Leiker, LV Review Journal Assistant Sports Editor – Seahawks, 26- 20. The Giants beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl because they were able to get pressure on Tom Brady, who threw for less than 300 yards in each game despite 48 and 41 attempts. Seattle’s defensive line isn’t as good as those New York lines, but its defense is far superior overall and will deny Brady his fourth ring.
Brian Mahoney, Associated Press – Seahawks, 26-24
Tracy Murray, Retired NBA player/Pac 12 Analyst – Seahawks, 31-24
Kathrine Narducci, Actress from Starz’s Power and HBO’s The Sopranos – Seahawks, 34-27.
Mike Pritchard, Retired NFL player – Seahawks, 21-16. Back-to-back.
Crystina Poncher, NFL Network – Seahawks 31-28
Jason Poston, Four-time IFBB physique champion and Top-3 Mr. Olympian – Seahawks 27-24. Repeat champs, led by the man Russell Wilson.
Mike Sando, ESPN NFL reporter – Seahawks, 27-17

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations – Seahawks, 23-21
Marc Spears, Yahoo Sports NBA reporter – Seahawks, 31-28
Sage Steele, ESPN NBA Anchor – Seahawks, 31-28
Danny Webster, UNLV’s The Rebel Yell, Managing Editor – Seahawks 27-24. Russell Wilson gets the MVP, then gets paid.
Jamieson Welsh, NBA radio analyst – Seahawks, 27-19. MVP Marshawn Lynch.
Roy Wood Jr., comedian – Seahawks, 30-22

Anthony Rodriguez, Sports Director KMET Radio Denver, Seahawks 24-20

———-

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal Writer – Patriots, 27-21
Paul Anka, Legendary Singer/Songwriter – Patriots, 31-28
RJ Bell, Pregame.com/ESPN contributor – Patriots, 23-16
Bryce Brentz, Boston Red Sox outfielder – Patriots, 35-28. The Patriots, this team has been here before, and they have the mindset that they’ll treat this like just another week.
Jared Brentz, 2013 World ParaLong Drive Champion – Patriots, 31-21
Frank Caliendo, Comedian/Impressionist – Patriots, 24-18
Jay Crawford, ESPN SportsCenter anchor – Patriots, 27-24
Jay Cutler, 4X Mr. Olympia Bodybuilder – Patriots, 28-25
Dave DeNatale, ESPN Cleveland – Patriots, 26-24
Tyler Farr, Country Music Artist/ACM New Artist of the Year candidate – Patriots 34-21

Jay Feely, NFL placekicker, Chicago Bears – Patriots, 24-20
Royce Feour, retired Las Vegas Review-Journal – Patriots 28-20. The Patriots have it in the (deflated ball) bag.
Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman & CEO UFC – Patriots, 31-28.
Randy Gatewood, Former UNLV standout/AFL Hall of Famer/Sideline reporter – Patriots, 27-24.
Jesse Granger, Editor UNLV’s Virtual-Rebel.com – Patriots, 27-21. MVP – Rob Gronkowski.
Jake Hager, Major League Baseball player, Rays organization – Patriots, 35-21
Merril Hoge, ESPN NFL analyst – Patriots, 28-13
Jemele Hill, ESPN His and Her’s co-host – Patriots, 33-31
Lacey Jones, Spokes model/professional poker player – Patriots, 27-24. What can I say, I’m a sucker for those pretty-boy looks of Tom Brady, not to mention his gorgeous wife – that has to amount for something. I do know a guy who sports Ugg boots won’t lose three straight Super Bowls. Why, that would be downright deflating.
TJ Lavin, Retired BMX star/TV Host – Patriots, 27-24. The Patriots and Tom Brady have a lot of distractions but they will overcome it to win the Super Bowl

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal – Patriots, 27-21. Belichick hoists trophy, yells “Yep, we deflated those balls,” gives crowd Marshawn Lynch crotch grab, drops mic.
David Payne Purdum, ESPN sports betting reporter – Patriots, 28-24
Michael Pittman, Retired NFL player/Bodybuilder – Patriots, 34-17
Tim Reynolds, Associated Press – Patriots, 33-24
Jon Saraceno, former USA Today columnist, freelance writer – Deflated Balls 27, Seanags 20
Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal Columnist – Patriots, 23-20. The Seahawks are not as strong as last season, and I’ll bet Belichick and Brady don’t lose a third straight Super Bowl.

FINAL TALLY: Seahawks 37 votes, Patriots 26 votes

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