Ever since he was selected as the 2016 Panini NFL Player of the Day Grand Prize winner in April, 11-year-old collector Tommy Dickerson and his parents -- Darren and Janelle -- started planning the special day with Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright. The Tacoma, Wash., native made his guest list, figured out what items he wanted to have Wright sign and even sharpened his basketball and Madden NFL skills in preparation for challenging the NFL All-Pro.
Ever since he was selected as the 2016 Panini NFL Player of the Day Grand Prize winner in April, 11-year-old collector Tommy Dickerson and his parents — Darren and Janelle — started planning the special day with Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright. The Tacoma, Wash., native made his guest list, figured out what items he wanted to have Wright sign and even sharpened his basketball and Madden NFL skills in preparation for challenging the NFL All-Pro.
When all the dust had settled and Dickerson’s chance to spend the day with an NFL player was just 24 hours away, Dickerson turned to his dad as they watched a ballgame together and predicted “tomorrow is going to be one of the greatest days of my life.” Dickerson was right.
The 17th annual Panini NFL Player of the Day Sweepstakes Grand Prize event was truly special as Dickerson invited 20 of his closest friends and family to his family’s home last Monday. As the youngsters were shooting hoops in the driveway, the dream became a reality when a black stretch limousine pulled up and Tommy, Darren and Janelle welcomed Wright to their home.
After a brief introduction, Wright grabbed the basketball and joined the kids in the driveway for a few games of knockout. As if scripted by Hollywood, the first game came down to Tommy vs. K.J., with Dickerson knocking out the NFL star to capture the win.
After two more games in which the kids defeated the NFL star, it was off to Dickerson’s playroom for a Q&A with K.J. and a game of Madden NFL. Tommy kept his record perfect, defeating K.J. in the video game, too.
Before Tommy and his guests got K.J.’s autograph and opened some packs, the Dickersons had a surprise for K.J. — a cupcake, a candle and spirited rendition of “Happy Birthday” to commemorate K.J.’s 28th birthday which he had celebrated the day before.
As Dickerson’s friends busted packs of Panini America NFL trading cards, Panini America officials had a special surprise for Tommy: A box of 2016 Flawless Football to open with his special guest.
Following a short autograph session during which Wright posed for photos and signed cards, photos, jerseys, mini-helmets, footballs and more for the party guests, it was time for Tommy and his best friends to join K.J. for their first ride in a limousine to Tommy’s favorite hobby shop – Northwest Sports Cards.
With nearly 150 customers lined up outside the shop it was now time for Tommy to share his special day with the rest of the shop’s loyal customers. For the next hour, the friendly and personable Seahawks linebacker posed for photos, chatted and signed autographs for card collectors and Seahawks fans.
As the hobby shop event wound down, Dickerson was still grinning from ear to ear.
“My favorite part of the day was playing Madden with him and playing basketball with him outside. It was probably the best day of my life and I’ll always remember it,” Dickerson said.
“Today was a really great day,” said Wright. “To hang out with these kids, play some knockout and Madden and open some cards and see legends like Reggie White and my former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott . . . it was great. Tommy taught me all about the cards.”
Tommy was among more than 150,000 NFL card collectors who participated in the 2016 Panini NFL Player of the Day contest at more than 600 hobby shops in the fall. He is among the thousands who earned prizes, but as the Grand Prize winner, he is the only one who got to spend the day with an NFL player. His journey began just like thousands of other collectors, when he uncovered the Panini NFL Player of the Day in a pack of Panini America NFL cards. He was then randomly selected as the store’s grand prize winner and was entered in the national sweepstakes with 600 other shop winners.
“Tommy is one of the nicest and most appreciative 11-year-olds you will ever know,” said Don Knutson, owner of Northwest Sports Cards. “We were elated to hear Tommy was the grand prize winner as he epitomizes the type of collector we all should want to represent our great hobby. He typically visits our store a couple times a week with his parents and grandparents, but during the Player of the Day promotions we see him twice as often.”
The 2016 Panini NFL Player of the Day promotion included participation from more than 600 hobby shops. This marks the 17th consecutive year that the NFL Player of the Day program has given an NFL card collector the chance to spend the day with an NFL player. Past players have included: Jeremy Langford, Terrence West, Antonio Brown, Prince Amukamara, Beanie Wells, Pierre Thomas, Patrick Crayton, Steve Slaton, AJ Feely, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Simms, Rudi Johnson, Donald Driver, Ed McCaffrey, Chad Pennington and Frank Wycheck.
Check out the pics from last week’s big event below and stay tuned to the Panini Player of the Day website for details on the 2017 event coming soon.