Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tickets or Not, Fans Happy to Be Crossing into Florida; Welcome Center Visitors Arrive Full of Optimism

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tickets or Not, Fans Happy to Be Crossing into Florida; Welcome Center Visitors Arrive Full of Optimism

Article excerpt

Byline: Gordon Jackson, The Times-Union

YULEE -- It's unlikely anyone will ask Derrick Cotton which team he wants to win Super Bowl XXXIX.

Even his hairdresser knows for sure.

Cotton climbed out of his car Thursday morning at the Florida welcome center on Interstate 95, sporting freshly dyed Philadelphia Eagle-green hair to show his allegiance to the team he wants to win Sunday's game.

Cotton said he dyed his hair before leaving Philadelphia with a friend at 10 p.m. Wednesday and drove all night through rain, an ice storm in the Carolinas and more rain in Georgia. The only problem, Cotton said, was when he fell asleep and the green food coloring on his hair smeared on the back seat of his friend's car.

Cleaning his friend's upholstery is a small price to pay for having a ticket to the game, he said.

"We drove through six hours of rain and when we hit the Florida line, it stopped raining," he said. "It's an omen."

Most fans stopping at the welcome center asking about game-related activities didn't have tickets. Some said they'd like to find a way to get into Alltel Stadium, but most said they just wanted to be part of the festivities and celebrate with other fans.

Vince Boyle said he has driven through Jacksonville many times, but never felt like he had a reason to stop.

"We heard it's not a destination city, like Miami," Boyle said.

Boyle is among a group of 10 fans from Philadelphia who decided Sunday they couldn't miss an opportunity to show support for their Eagles.

They left Philadelphia -- without tickets -- in three vehicles about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and convoyed overnight to Florida.

"This could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "We've cheered them; we've cried for them. This is the payoff."

Another group stopping at the welcome center might be among the most dysfunctional football families heading to Jacksonville.

Michael Royer, of Binghamton, N.Y., said he wants New England to win. …

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