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2 Crossroads Super Bowl fans face off

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 4, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2012 at 8:05 p.m.

The Super Bowl is serious business for two fans. Tony Hernandez, left, of Victoria, is a longtime New York Giants fan, while Jeremy Flores, a Cuero native, is a New England Patriots fan. Both say their team will win Sunday's big game.

GAME DAY - TO VIEW: NBC AND ONLINE AT WWW.NBC.COM. KICKOFF: 5:30 P.M. SUNDAY.

Name: Jeremy Flores

Age: 31

City: Victoria

Team: New England Patriots

Fan Since: 1992

When Jeremy Flores was 12 years old, he adopted the New England Patriots as his own. For a Texas native, a state with two famed National Football League teams, choosing football loyalties elsewhere was unusual.

"I wanted my own team," Flores said. "Everyone was a Cowboys fan, or a Texans fan, and I wanted to follow a team that I chose."

Twenty years later, the Cuero native is as devoted as ever to the Pats - a team boasting seven Super Bowl appearances and three wins.

"I still have that love and devotion for these guys, all these years later," he said. "There's a lot of people who can't say they've carried a team with them for 20 years. It's like a family member - you grow old with them."

Flores' beloved Patriots are scheduled for a rematch with the New York Giants on Sunday during Super Bowl XLVI at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. And on game day, Flores said he'll be glued to the big-screen with a beer and a slice of pizza, mentally willing his team to victory.

"On game day, don't talk to me. I'm in the zone," Flores said, laughing. "I'm willing them to win, and I have to be focussed. I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like the more focussed I am, the better chances they have to win."

The Patriots lost to the Giants in 2008, when they faced off at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. during Super Bowl XLII.

Flores recognizes the weight of the Giants, but believes this year, the Pats can pull off another Super Bowl win.

"I hate to say it, but the Giants are talented. They're tough, and they're deep on defense," Flores said, laughing. "But I have to have confidence. Bill Belichick is a genius, and he finds ways to find the weakness in the other team."

And Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is another reason the team could win the Super Bowl, Flores said.

"He's a coach on the field. He's a winner. He wins," he said.

In the years following the Patriots, Flores has accumulated a noteworthy collection of memorabilia. Some of his prized items include Patriots athletic gear, Drew Bledsoe action figures, autographed helmets, framed posters and 1,322 non-duplicated Patriots trading cards.

"I've been collecting the cards over the years, and I'll pass them on to my son one day," Flores said. "I have a girlfriend, so I can't be too crazy with it."

But for all the years he's devoted to the team, he's never attended a Patriots game.

"I don't know what I'd do if I ever went to a game. I'd be like, 'Oh my God, I'm here.' I'd probably cry, I would," he said.

Flores said he's gearing up for a successful Super Bowl Sunday, and he's already preparing to see his favorite team hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

"Absolutely. Hell yes, they will find a way," he said.

For two decades, Victorian has yelled for Giants

• Name: Tony Hernandez

• Age: 43

• City: Victoria

• Team: New York Giants

• Fan since: 1990

A year before the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLII over the New England Patriots in 2008, Tony Hernandez sold every Giants-adorned article he owned.

"I was fed up with the Giants. Everything I had, my T-shirts, my hard hat helmet, autographed memorabilia, my sports cards, I stuck it on eBay and sold it," said Hernandez, laughing at the National Football Conference team he's supported since 1990. "The following year they won the Super Bowl, so I went back and starting buying all my stuff back."

Hernandez's visceral reaction to rid his home of Giants memorabilia - because it hurt his chest to look at it - indicated only one thing: a passionate loyalty to the team.

The 43-year-old Victoria resident said he's been devoted to the Giants for more than two decades, adopting the team after working in the carpentry industry alongside a group of New York-born brothers.

"I've been a football fan since third grade, playing pee-wee football in Houston," Hernandez said. "But I never had a favorite team, and when I met the brothers, I said 'It's time to pick my favorite team.' That year, they won the Super Bowl against the Bills, and I've been faithful to them ever since."

On Sunday, the Giants challenge the New England Patriots for a second time in Super Bowl Super Bowl XLVI at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. It's the Patriots' fifth appearance at the Super Bowl, with three wins and one loss.

But Hernandez is ready for the Giants to bring home a second win against New England.

"They shouldn't have won the first one, but they did," he said. "This year, I've talked to other people and they're picking the Patriots, but I'm saying the Patriots didn't really have that hard of a schedule. You look at the Giants and their road to the Super Bowl was very hard, especially when they got to the playoffs."

Hernandez recognizes the assets of the Patriots, including a strong offensive line and New England's head coach Bill Belichick, who formally coached the Giants for 12 years under head coaches Ray Perkins and Bill Parcels.

"With Bill Belichick on the Patriots, he's doing a desperate move right now. He's putting some of his wide receivers to cover the Giants receivers. But you never know, it could be a genius plan," Hernandez said. "I'm hoping the Giants would win. The reason I'm saying they should win is because momentum is on their side. The road to the Super Bowl was very hard for them."

On Super Bowl Sunday, Hernandez said he'll spend time with a small crowd of faithful football enthusiasts, and do his best to not pace the room, like he normally does on game days.

"If I'm sitting at one end of the room and a good play happens and I happen to get up and go sit on the bar stool at the other end of the room and a bad play happens, I'll move back to my original place to see if it has any karma," he said. "I guess I'm a little superstitious."

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