I'd always wanted to be famous, but I didn't really think it would ever happen. Who knew that playing football would put me on national television with Alec Baldwin and Shaquille O'Neal and on the front of a Wheaties box? —Sam Gordon
One year after her little league football highlights went viral on YouTube, Samantha "Sweet Feet" Gordon is sharing her unique experience in a book in hopes of inspiring other kids.
The book is appropriately titled "Sweet Feet: Samantha Gordon's Winning Season." It's authored by Gordon with Ari Bruening, an attorney and friend of Gordon's family. The book, released Oct. 15, was published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury.
Sam Gordon became an overnight Internet sensation after her father, Brent, posted a four-minute video of her dominating the all-male competition in Herriman's Gremlin football league in 2012. With ponytail bouncing, the video shows how the 9-year-old juked, cut and ran for nearly 2,000 yards and scored 35 touchdowns.
Within hours, her family began fielding requests for appearances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Good Morning America." She was interviewed on ESPN's SportsCenter and invited to watch the Super Bowl with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. She also met the U.S. Women's National soccer team, including her heroes Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. (Sam's favorite sport is actually soccer, not football.)
"I'd always wanted to be famous, but I didn't really think it would ever happen," Sam Gordon said in the book's opening pages. "Who knew that playing football would put me on national television with Alec Baldwin and Shaquille O'Neal and on the front of a Wheaties box?"
The idea for the book came along when Bruening, a friend of the family, approached Brent Gordon and said he thought Sam's story would make a fun children's book. He was an unpublished writer, but felt her story had great promise.
"I said, 'I don't care, go ahead,'" Brent Gordon said. "I didn't think much of it. It didn’t requite anything from us. It was something he was excited to do. We sat around the kitchen table for a few nights. He would record Sam telling her story, then we would review it.
"For us, it’s been just an amazing experience. The best word I could use to describe it is surreal. ... From my perspective, I never really anticipated there would be that much interest in Sam’s story. I didn’t imagine it would blow up like it did."
Wambach wrote the book's foreword. The book also includes fun facts about Gordon, quotes from famous people she has met, and photos of travels and celebrity encounters. It tells about her family life and "Tommy boy" tendencies. She loves to read and is a good student. She said her family likes to play sports together at parks and gyms near their home.
Sam Gordon thinks she gets her competitive spirit from her father.
One teacher expressed concern to her father when she saw Gordon playing football with the boys at recess.
"I don't know what she thought was wrong with that, but she thought my dad should ask me to stop," she said in the book. "A few months later, when she saw my dad again, she told him she was concerned that I was still doing it. He was fine with me playing football with boys, so he never told me to stop, or even that my teacher thought I should.
"I'm glad he didn't, because I love playing football."
Receiving some of the first copies in the mail was a special thrill, Sam Gordon said. Brent Gordon said the family is pleased with the book, but points out that the only time he promoted his daughter was through the original highlight video on YouTube. They spent the next weeks and months responding to telephone calls and interview requests from all over the country, which was a lot of hard work. And while it was "surreal" to see his daughter in an NFL commercial, the family didn't receive any money, according to Brent Gordon. The NFL donated $20,000 to charity in Sam Gordon's name.
"For us, it will be a keepsake, a way of recording what happened," Brent Gordon said. "It will be a fun way for Sam to share her story with her friends and family. One day she can tell her experience to kids. She can just give them a book and say, 'read it.'"
For now and the near future, the now-10-year-old is planning to trade tackle football for flag football. She aspires to play for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team so she can win a gold medal and bring home the World Cup trophy.
One message Sam hopes readers, especially kids, take from her book is "don't be afraid to try new things."
"It might be hard. It's not just touch your toes and you are done. You might have to hit the ball hard with your head or you might have to run a lot, or you might get your face full of snow because you just got tackled," Sam Gordon said in a phone interview. "Just overcome your fears. Jump off the high dive at the swimming pool. It’s not going to be too hard, just don’t be afraid to do it."
If you go ...
What: Samantha Gordon book signing
When: Saturday, Oct. 19, 5 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of "Sweet Feet" from the King's English.
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