NEW ORLEANS — Super Bowl XLVII will feature pros and a Kahn on the sidelines Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
She is Wendy Kahn, a 52-year-old special education teacher from Kenner who will serve on the eight-person chain crew for the NFL championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
Kahn, a full-time member of the New Orleans Saints chain crew since 1995, is believed to be the first and only woman to work in that capacity in a Super Bowl. She worked the two previous Super Bowls in New Orleans — XXXI (Jan. 26, 1997) and XXXVI (Feb. 3, 2002).
"This is very special to me,'' Kahn said Wednesday. "I love being on the chain gang and part of the Saints crew. I feel like the Saints were pioneers in all this because they were the first NFL team to do it. You don't see many women involved in the NFL like this.''
Kahn can thank her late father, Leonard Kahn, for getting her interested.
He served for more than two decades on the Saints chain crew before his death in 1993. Each time he stepped on the field for a measurement he would lovingly tip his cap in her direction.
Kahn soon followed in her father's footsteps, learning the eight various jobs on the Saints' chain crew.
She served a one-year apprenticeship during the 1994 season and became a full-time member in '95 where she remains today, essentially replacing her father.
"Dad was a high school coach, and I always followed him,'' said Kahn, a non-faculty softball coach at Ben Franklin High School. "I was real athletic, played a lot of flag football, officiated, coached and just loved the game.
"And I love doing this.''
Kahn said she has managed to stay out of harm's way, though admitting to a recent run-in on the sideline with Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams.
"He ran way out of bounds and knocked me over,'' Kahn said. "But I jumped right up, and I even said, 'I hope I didn't hurt you or anything.' Of course, I was joking. But you have to stay alert and keep your eyes wide open at all times.''
Among Kahn's highlights in her role are meeting former President George H. Bush, Paul McCartney, U2's Bono and Super Bowl quarterbacks Brett Favre (Green Bay, 1997) and Kurt Warner (St. Louis, 2002). Some of her biggest fans attend Roosevelt Junior High, Green Lawn Elementary, Audubon Elementary and G.T. Woods Elementary, where she teaches special ed.
During the Saints season, she earns $45 per game. On Super Bowl Sunday, she will pocket $100 for her duties involving the "Line of Gain,'' a computer-generated fluorescent colored line that helps television viewers know the exact spot the offense must reach for a first down. She places an arrow on the opposite sideline of the 10-yard chain which, in turn, triggers a laser that viewers see.
Other members of the Saints' chain crew who are working Super Bowl XLVIII include crew chief Tony Piazza, C.J. Piazza, Tommy Smith, Jimmy Hebert, Don Gunaldo, Al Nastasi Jr. and Ronnie Kornic.
"I'm just one of the guys,'' Kahn said. "I don't get any heckling or anything. The players have always been very nice to me and treated me with respect. I remember Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings saying to me on the sidelines during a game, 'It's really good seeing a lady on the sidelines.' "
Ironically, Kahn can return the greeting Sunday. Now in his 15th NFL season, Moss, 35, is a standout wide receiver for the 49ers.
This piece ran in the Friday editions of The Advocate.
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