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Getting a close-up look at the Super Bowl

To say that Craig Gallegos had a front-row seat at last month’s Super Bowl would be a bit of an understatement.

After all, his view was better than any Hall of Fame player, corporate executive and even the most famous fan there – Taylor Swift. But unlike them, his “seat” was constantly on the go.

That’s because Gallegos, a 1989 Boulder City High School grad, had the opportunity of the lifetime to be on the sideline crew in the sport’s biggest game of the year.

“It was a really fun experience,” he said. “I don’t know how to put it into words. There was so much going on. It was a good time.”

Ever since the Raiders moved from Oakland to Las Vegas, Gallegos has been a member of the sideline chain crew. (More on that to come.) So even though he’s not positive, he’s pretty confident his crew was chosen because they’re the ones who work home games at Allegiant Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl LVIII. The crew was notified about a month before the game that they’d be working the sidelines. Once he cleared a background check, it was official.

“I was excited, obviously, but there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “I didn’t tell a lot of people because I didn’t want to jinx anything. It didn’t sink in until the day of the game. We had to go down to the Westin (Hotel) where the officials were. From there, they put us on a bus to the stadium. There were people waving to us and that’s when I realized that we’re really doing this.”

While it was the same stadium he had driven up to a couple dozen times before for games, Gallegos said this was definitely different. Not only because of the festivities in the parking lot prior to the game (he and his crew arrived three hours prior to kickoff), but the amount of security and just the overall vibe. Because of it, he ended up going into their locker room to try and relax and grab a bite to eat.

When asked if it was overwhelming, he simply said, “Yes.” But he was quick to say that despite the nerves and knowing more than 100 million people would be watching, he and the other members of the crew were focused on the task at hand.

During the game, it was his responsibility to place the pylon, which housed a small camera, on the line to gain to get the first down. During Raiders games, his duties often vary.

At halftime, the lines crew went into their own locker room, separate from the officials. During a regular-season game they’re allowed 13 minutes to eat and use the restroom. But in the Super Bowl, because of the extended halftime show, they were allotted 29 minutes.

Even though Gallegos and his crew are right there on the sidelines intermixed with players and coaches, they are not there to be spectators.

“You get to see the game because you’re right there, watching for the next play,” he said. “But you do miss a lot of the game because there are times (such as in the Super Bowl) that I’m placing the pylon and I may have my back to the game. In the games where I’m doing the chains, the players don’t always make it easy on us because they’re often stepping on it. But you have to be focused because the last thing I want is to be hit (by a player) on the sidelines because they don’t stop.”

As far as how he got the job as a member of the Raiders chain crew, Gallegos said it was almost by accident. He’s worked in juvenile probation for the last 24 years and 15 of those he worked up at Spring Mountain Youth Camp at Mount Charleston. The school has a football team and as per league rules, the home team must provide a chain crew.

“I joined and I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I learned from the referees because we were told to put the chain where the refs tell you to put them.”

One of the school’s supervisors just happened to be a Pac-10 football referee. Because he was well-known, he was asked to put together a game crew to work the sidelines for the Raiders.

“He called me and said he’d been watching me over the years and when he first asked if I’d be interested, I told him I had done high school games and wasn’t sure if I could do NFL games,” Gallegos said. “He said ‘talk to your wife and think about it.’ I told Rachel (formerly Solomon and also a 1989 BCHS grad) and she said, ‘Call him back right now and tell him you’ll take it.’ I told him I would and have been doing it ever since.”

When Gallegos accepted the offer, it was in the middle of COVID. In fact, the first year the Raiders played in Las Vegas there were no fans in the stadium. And as far as training, he said a lot of it was done via Zoom calls and watching videos.

“I learned kind of on the job in terms of the more detailed stuff that goes along with it,” he said. “There wasn’t any official training, which I thought there would be. And when they told me we got paid to do it, I was kind of shocked. They treat us well.”

As to what he enjoys most about the unique way he gets to spend at least eight Sundays a year doing, he said, “I really enjoy being on the field. But it’s crazy how much is going on down there. It’s fun but you still have a job to do.”

Ron Eland is editor of the Boulder City Review. He can be reached at reland@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523.

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