CINCINNATI — The last time the Bengals went to a Super Bowl, it was 1989 and Sam Wyche was running out of the tunnel behind his players in Miami. The legendary player and coach is the last of the franchise to stand on the sidelines of football's biggest game and share the moment with his family.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Zak Wyche, Sam's son. "It is just so overwhelming seeing all that especially when you're young and you can't really understand why all that attention's for a football game."
The younger Wyche was in high school for Super Bowl XXIII and got to join his dad on the field. He grew up in the NFL, through locker rooms and championships.
"For them, this is just dad," he said. "It's nobody special to them."
The Super Bowl atmosphere, though, will be special — something the family of current Bengals players and coaches will soon learn, too.
"It is almost an unreal experience walking out on the field for the first time and seeing everybody up there," Wyche said. "It is a show and it is bigger than life."
He remembers seeing game balls being thrown off the field and under the bench after plays and eyeing a souvenir.
"So, about the two minute warning, I went and grabbed one and stuck it up under my shirt and tried to walk out with it," he laughed. "I got stopped by security but it wasn't for the ball, they couldn't see my field pass."
Years later, he found his young sons playing with the ball — out of its case — out in the yard.
Wyche and his sister keep their dad close. They've set out his bobblehead, his Bengals jacket and they've worn his AFC Championship hat from 1989.
"He would be so excited, he would be a fan just like the rest of us," Wyche said. "He loves this city, it's been so good to him."
Now a coach at St. Xavier High School, Wyche said he sees many similarities between that 1988-89 Bengals team and this one — most of all, heart.
"They started to believe in themselves and the power of belief raises your level of play for everybody," he said. "It was exciting to see them do that and that's what I think is happening here."
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