Minnesotans who aren't Hall of Fame quarterbacks can still make a play to get in the action for the 2018 Super Bowl.
The Minnesota Host Committee needs 10,000 volunteers to run the event, and the process starts Wednesday with online applications.
Super Bowl volunteers don't have the marquee power of a world famous halftime show or glitzy party, but they are the backbone of the event projected to draw 125,000 out-of-towners and bring in more than $400 million to the metro economy.
Host Committee volunteer director Elle (pronounced like Ellie) Kehoe is in charge of the effort that puts volunteers at airports, street corners, concerts and parties. During Super Bowl week, volunteers are everywhere. At the recent Super Bowl in Houston, they all wore the same red-and-white uniforms. Some carried signs that read, "May I Help?"
Not everyone will be accepted, and background checks will be done. "We want to engage people that are very friendly and bubbly and have a lot of Minnesota pride," Kehoe said. "We want them to be customer-service oriented and love Minnesota."
The Minnesota event is called Bold North, and a core mission is to project hospitality and warmth. Getting the right volunteers ready takes months.
Kehoe, 28 and a Mahtomedi native, has been preparing her whole life for this mission beginning with annual trips to Miami where her dad volunteered a weekend at a golf tournament followed by family trips to Disney World and the beach. "I loved it. I loved watching my dad walking around with the golfers," she said.
Her interest in sports and volunteering led to a degree in human resources from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She stayed in Colorado for a few years, working for resorts and foundations planning events. On a whim, she applied for a volunteer manager job for the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2016 and landed the job. She recruited more than 6,000 volunteers for that game, screening hundreds of applicants a week.
Kehoe is counting on a strong Minnesota volunteer spirit to create a big pool of prospects. She pointed out that the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine last summer required 4,000 volunteers. Ryder Cup planners stopped taking applications after they received 16,000.
Besides rejecting some applicants, planners expect a 30 percent attrition rate for accepted recruits — so Kehoe needs more than 10,000 to start.
Early signs are strong. She said she's heard from some who volunteered at the 1992 Super Bowl here and want to get in on the next one.
Once the applications come, a big part of Kehoe's work is to get volunteers excited and connected. That includes finding a spot and setting up a headquarters with what she described as a "wow factor." In Houston, the headquarters was an expansive and comfortable former Barnes and Noble downtown.
Already, Kehoe has an all-volunteer committee of 40 working with her. They will help sift through applicants looking for screeners, who will start in May and then interview would-be volunteers in the fall.
Among the applicants, leaders will be chosen as trainers. In January 2018 when job specific training starts, volunteers will get to know their teammates.
"We want to get to know them, and we want them to get to know us," Kehoe said.
Volunteers are required to work three shifts of four to six hours in the days leading up to the game. "We have shifts in the morning, at night and on the weekend so we can accommodate people even if they have full-time jobs and are coming from greater Minnesota," Kehoe said.
Obviously, volunteers don't get paid, but they do get a complete Super Bowl LII outfit unique to the effort that will include top-grade winter gear, including a parka built to withstand extreme cold, a sturdy backpack, beanie and thermos.
Interested? Wannabe volunteers can sign up through the Super Bowl Host Committee's website www.mnsuperbowl.com. Those who have submitted their e-mails to become "fans" of the host committee, get the first chance to apply Wednesday morning. The "fans" will get an e-mail heralding the start of the process from retired Minnesota Vikings player Chad Greenway, who wore the number 52 and is the cheerleader of the effort.
One caveat: There are no volunteer positions inside U.S. Bank Stadium so the gig doesn't come with a view of the game.
Kehoe, who said her parents are thrilled to have her back in town, is excited to be home for the event. "There's nothing like the Super Bowl," she said. "I can't wait to show the world what Minnesota has to offer."
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747