Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago

PACIFIC OCEAN – Throughout the deck plates of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Sailors traded in their uniforms to wear their teams’ jerseys during the NFL’s Conference Championship games, Jan. 24. They sat anxiously on the edge of their seats in workspaces, on mess decks and in lounges watching their teams compete. Fans cheered as the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos triumphed, earning a spot in Super Bowl 50.

Stennis Sailors have spent the past year working to be deployment ready, like a quarterback preparing all year for his shot at the Super Bowl. There are countless obstacles that can get in the way of being prepared for deployment or making it to the Super Bowl.

“Honestly, I don’t think the crew expected to perform as well as we did,” said Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Ryan W. Gillig, a native of Kalispell, Mont., “We got all these accolades for all of the inspections. Everything that Stennis went up against, we conquered.”

“If you mirror that with what the Broncos did, there were many people who never gave them a shot, but they kept on trucking and kept on meeting that weekly goal,” Gillig added. “Now we reached our goal this year by leaving for deployment and the Broncos are one step closer to reaching theirs by making it to the Super Bowl.”

Stennis consistently performed well on inspections and exercises throughout the work up cycle to reach a goal of being deployment ready and these two Super Bowl teams have shown that they are both ready to be on the same path as Stennis.

“This is the best I’ve seen the Panthers play since 2004,” said Machinist’s Mate Fireman Carrie Bumgardner, from Gastonia, N.C. “They really stepped up their game. They are working together and playing more in sync than ever before.”

These Sailors, who spend their lives committed to teams like the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, have embraced similar values and goals important to both the Navy and football.

Every member brings something to the team, whether it’s a Sailor working on the mess decks or a kicker on a football team.

Gillig started playing football when he was in second grade. It was the kickers who got him interested in the sport. He would spend hours kicking the football barefoot. He learned at an early age that playing this sport takes a lot of teamwork.

“It takes everyone on a team to win a football game.” said Gillig. “It also takes every job on this ship to accomplish the mission.”

The Navy and football can also help instill values for an individual to be the best they can be.

“Football has shown me that I have to be dedicated to whatever I do,” said Bumgardner. “If I can see these guys playing professional football, well then I can make it as far as I want to make it in the Navy. They bring out the passion in me to do my best.”

The sport provides an opportunity to make time underway less stressful.

“It gives people an escape from being stuck in the middle of the ocean,” said Bumgardner. “Being out to sea isn’t that bad, [but] it’s nice to forget where you are and just enjoy a good football game and talk smack to each other.”

Being deployed can be stressful, but football can create an environment that builds camaraderie in the workplace.

“Watching the games underway definitely brings my shop and me closer together,” said Gillig. “Everyone in my shop knows I am a diehard Broncos fan. We have a good time and joke at each other.”

Bumgardner said the intensity in the sport hypes everyone up. It bring’s people together to be more than just friends watching a game. They become a family.

Whether wearing orange and white or blue and black, these two fans have values that can apply to being on the gridiron or on a warship. As the Panthers and Broncos face off for Super Bowl 50, the Stennis crew has earned their Lombardi trophy.