From TV truck to field, Penn Staters among Super Bowl's key performers

There’s the NFL vice president for football communications responsible for 4,000 credentialed media.

There’s the Fox Sports TV director commanding 48 television cameras that will deliver pictures of the year’s biggest game to some 108 million Americans.

And then there’s No. 26 for the Seattle Seahawks, an eight-year veteran fullback who is the personal escort for “Beast Mode.”

You can number them among the most important people Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. And you can call them all Penn Staters.

That trio leads a host of alumni and students playing key roles in the NFL championship game at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. And who are the aforementioned Penn Staters who will make the Super Bowl, the preeminent sports event in America, tick? They are:

-- Michael Signora, who earned his journalism degree from Penn State in 1996, the NFL’s vice president of football communications. He is responsible for leading a team of hundreds who will serve as the league’s liaison to the thousands of media members from around the world. He is a past recipient of Penn State’s Alumni Achievement Award and the 2013 winner of the 40th annual Jack Horrigan Award, presented by the Professional Football Writers of America.

-- Rich Russo, who earned his degree in speech communication in 1984, is the lead director of U.S. television coverage of the Super Bowl. This will be Russo’s 15th Super Bowl overall, working in various capacities, but mostly as a director. A 10-time Emmy winner, Russo has served as director of two domestic and six international broadcasts of the Super Bowl.

-- Michael Robinson, who earned degrees in advertising and journalism in 2004 and 2005, respectively, is a fullback and key special teams player for the Seattle Seahawks. Robinson is a primary blocker for the Seahawks' 1,000-yard rusher, Marshawn Lynch, and was voted to the Pro Bowl. Off the field, Robinson is involved in a variety of outlets, including his realmike.com website, which features a variety of multi-media, to broadcast assignments with ESPN.

Robinson is joined on the Seahawks' roster by rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who earned his degree in recreation, park and tourism management in 2013. 

Also among Penn Staters at the game is a group of alumni and students representing the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, housed in the College of Communications. John Affleck, director of the Curley Center and the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society, and senior broadcast student Patrick Woo will be credentialed media for the game. They will be filing general and Penn State-specific stories from the Super Bowl that will appear on ComRadio and the Curley Center website.

Two senior communications students, Hannah Biondi and Michael Renahan, and recent alumnus Ellen McNair (2012) will be working for the NFL’s media relations team in a variety of capacities. This is McNair’s third Super Bowl assisting the NFL. In 2013, she served as the NFL’s weeklong PR representative assigned Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who went on to win the game’s MVP trophy. This year, she is working with Denver receiver Wes Welker.

Among the other Penn State alumni working at the Super Bowl are: NFL Network reporter Kimberly Jones, who earned her bachelor's degree in journalism in 1991 and her master's degree in exercise and sport science in 1993; Sports Illustrated reporters Jenny Vrentas, 2006 graduate in science, and Emily Kaplan, 2013 journalism graduate; and New York Daily News assistant sports editor Will Pakutka, 1982 journalism graduate.

Last Updated January 29, 2014