WINFIELD, Pa. — A few weeks ago, Tom Henschel of Winfield sat in the same seat in the Los Angeles Coliseum where he watched Green Bay and Kansas City take the field for the first Super Bowl 49 years ago.
"It was really something," he said. "I just kind of sat and really couldn't believe I'd ever be back."
He hadn't been to the Coliseum since Super Bowl VIII in 1973.
On Sunday, Henschel, 73, a Harrison native, will attend Super Bowl XLIX.
He's among just three fans who have attended every Super Bowl.
It's a streak he plans to maintain until he just can't make it to the games anymore.
"I just enjoy the games so much and I enjoy all the hype and excitement and seeing the celebrities that go to the games," he said.
His accomplishment has gained him national notoriety.
Henschel and his fellow "Never Miss a Super Bowl Club" members, Robert Cook of Wisconsin, Don Crisman of Maine, and Larry Jacobson of San Francisco, were featured in a Visa credit card commercial in 2010. Cook died in 2011.
Henschel, Crisman and Jacobson had the opportunity to return to the Coliseum when NBC flew them to Los Angeles to film a piece that will air before the Super Bowl this year.
Henschel remembers about 30,000 people attended that first Super Bowl — and only about half of those bought tickets — in a stadium that seats more than 100,000.
Tickets cost $12 for the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, as the Super Bowl was known then.
Fans wore dress clothes.
Someone gave Henschel his tickets and his seat "wasn't bad," he said. He was 24 rows up at the 30-yard line.
To this day, he revels in the super-charged atmosphere of the game today.
"I party like a 20-year-old," he said. "I hit all the nightclubs and bars."
Henschel said he's spent thousands of dollars over the years attending games, although Visa picked up the tab in 2010. He saves up all year for his trips.
When he worked for the airline industry, he used to be able to take advantage of free passes. Once his attendance streak was on the line, though, he started buying plane tickets to make sure he wasn't bumped from a flight.
"There were many years where I had to pay scalpers because I couldn't break my string," he said. "One time, we paid $4,000 for two tickets when the Steelers played in Dallas."
Henschel is now on the NFL's VIP list and can buy tickets at face value. He paid $1,500 each for two tickets this year.
But the cost can still add up.
Last year, when the Super Bowl was played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Henschel had to commit to a five-night stay and shell out money for car rentals. Not including the tickets, the trip easily cost him $5,000.
"I wanted to be in downtown New York, so I had to pay the price," he said.
But Henschel says the expense is worth it. He once compared the Super Bowl to New Year's and the Fourth of July rolled into one big celebration.
This year's trip will cost a little less because he'll be staying with family in Phoenix, not far from the stadium hosting Super Bowl XLIX.
He'll be rooting for the Seattle Seahawks. Henschel stressed that he "hates" the New England Patriots.
He has a collection of game jerseys for teams he really likes, including the Steelers, Cleveland Browns and other teams from the AFC North Division.
"I am going to buy a Seahawks jersey this year," Henschel said. "I just have a good feel for them."
Henschel has taken various people to the Super Bowl over the years.
The first game he went with a cousin, Mary, whom he had never met and hasn't seen since.
He most often went with his brother, Jim, who died 2½ years ago.
Now he's trying to take each of his seven nephews.
Two nephews, both in their 30s, are flying from Pennsylvania to Phoenix in hopes that one of them can buy a ticket. The other will get Henschel's second ticket.
"I'm going to put a name in a hat and pull it," he said. "Eventually, I want to take all my nephews to a game, although my one niece, Bethany, has been bugging me to go."
Henschel's sister, Janee Wislie of Harrison, said their family has accepted his passion for football.
"I'm pretty proud of him," she said. "He always said this is his claim to fame."
Already looking forward to 2016, Henschel said he would love to be on the field for the coin toss for Super Bowl 50.
Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com