MIAMI (AP) — Through his song “Boys of Fall,” Kenny Chesney has a direct connection to this Super Bowl.
The song has become something of an anthem for high school football, celebrating the teamwork and dedication it takes to play the sport — really on any level. It was written by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Beathard's son Casey, who has penned several hits for the country superstar. Beathard's son, C.J., is a backup quarterback for the 49ers.
“Boys of Fall” has special meaning this week. C.J.'s younger brother, Clayton, was stabbed to death in Nashville in December.
“I am very close to the Beathard family and I love them deeply,” Chesney says. "I can't imagine what they have been going through.
"That song has meant so much to me. It's my life to a T. Casey wrote it for me and is so represents significant parts of my life. Sports always has been a huge part of my life. When you grow up in a smaller town, the high school football team is your team.
“When I heard that song, it perfectly described what sports meant to me, and the kind of community and environment I grew up in.”
Naturally, Chesney has remained a huge football fan; he grew up in Tennessee rooting for the Vols. He was far too small to play the sport at a high level — his friend Drew Brees towered over him when they stood next to each other Friday morning as they appeared on ESPN's “Golic and Wingo” show, and Brees is short for a quarterback. So Chesney became the biggest name in country music, regularly selling out shows in NFL stadiums.
He begins this year's tour in the spring and will finish it off, as always, in Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, with his 20th and 21st shows there.
“That's where I termed 'No Shoes Nation,' gave (his fans) the name and where it all kind of started,” Chesney recalls.
The energy those concerts produce is similar to the vibes when the home team scores a touchdown. For three hours.
While he won't measure those concerts directly with the Super Bowl, Chesney recognizes some similarities.
“People who come to see them truly care, whether it's about the players and the sport, or the performer,” he says. "There is a certain energy, which is why I love coming this week. I won't compare what I do to this week, but when people come to our shows at any of the stadiums, they truly believe in the music. They truly care about being there together and sharing together.
“That's what I love about our audiences.”
There were many doubters when Chesney first announced he would be doing stadium shows in 2005. Those critics believed he was reaching too far. He admits it was a leap of faith no matter the genre.
But it has worked.
And from Tampa to Seattle, Denver to the New Jersey Meadowlands, Chesney will be singing “Boys of Fall” and dozens of other hits to sold-out buildings.
As for Sunday's sellout at Hard Rock Stadium, Chesney says he has friends on both teams. He also has a soft spot for Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Having challenged the odds on stages in NFL facilities, Chesney wonders how the 49ers will stop Patrick Mahomes.
“It's the unknown,” he says. “All the things Mahomes can do. How do you prepare of that? How do you prepare for something you can't really simulate beforehand?”
Because, as Chesney knows from one of his song titles, Mahomes has been setting the world on fire.
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