The most anticipated sporting event of the year happens on Sunday, and we have a Grand Junction native playing in it.
Ben Garland is the starting center for the San Francisco 49ers and will play in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Garland grew up on the Westernslope playing for the Bookcliff Chiefs when he was young. In high school he dominated with the Central Warriors, then he went to play college ball at the Air Force Academy.
He played three seasons for the Falcons posting 115 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. Then spent two years in active duty with an extended reserve commitment that he still serves in.
He’s a captain in the Air National Guard and is stationed in Denver at Buckley Air Force Base. After the football season is over he resumes his reserve service.
But in 2012 his state-team, the Denver Broncos, signed him as an undrafted free agent.
Since then he’s been apart of two Super Bowls. The first in 2014 when the Broncos lost to the Seahawks 43-8. The second was with Atlanta in Superbowl 51, but the Falcons lost to the New England Patriots 34-28.
“The most exciting thing this is seeing your kids successful and following their dreams,” Ben’s father John Hildebrand said. “All four of my kids are doing that.”
Ben is very successful on the field, but it’s what he does off the field that makes his father proud.
Ben has been a NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee twice, a Salute to Service award nominee, and the NFL Association Community MVP.
“Those are things that are life character things,” Hildebrand said. “I’m really excited he’s going to the Superbowl, but as a parent the other piece is really important to me.”
Ben’s hard work has brought him to where he’s at today and has been the story of his career.
“His teammates on the 49ers, when I talked with them, said, ‘Ben’s a grinder. He just outworks other people.’” John added.
Of course we had to ask John what he thinks the final score will be on Sunday, and he predicts it’s going to be a dog-fight.
“I think it’s going to be a three point game,” John said. “Both teams are very talented and they come with a very different strategy. Of course I’d like to see the 49ers just shut the Chiefs out and crush them, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. “
The Big Game kicks off from Miami, Sunday at 4:30 p.m. MST on Fox.