The Cincinnati Bengals hosted a sold-out fan rally at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, ahead of their Tuesday departure for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. The big game against the Los Angeles Rams is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. 

A fourth-year student at the University of Cincinnati (UC), Adam Wheeler, had a once-in-a-lifetime internship with the Cincinnati Bengals. Part of his internship was running the flag out of the tunnel on game day. However, not just any game. 

This game that Wheeler carried the flag for the Bengals was the first round of playoffs, which would be their first playoff win in 31 years that began their post-season run to Super Bowl LVI. 

It was 7:30 a.m. Wheeler laid in bed for two hours staring at the cream ceiling in awe of what will and what might happen today. 

It had been 31 years since the Bengals last won a playoff game and once again they’d have another chance to end that appalling streak. For Wheeler, this game was more than the chance to watch the Bengals defeat their disappointing statistic. He was set to be on the field too, a part of the action. 

From the mention of a job application website called TeamWorkOnline in one of his sports administration classes taught by Professor David J Kelly, Adam, a lifelong Bengals fan and marketing student, applied for what he viewed as a dream job. 

Community and Fan Engagement was the title Adam received after he’d gotten a call back from the Bengals in July telling him that he would be a great fit for the position. 

Now, at 10:30 a.m., he’d gotten in his car to take the routine drive for every home Bengals game. Seven minutes from his college house to Central Riverfront Garage, parked in Row H.

This drive was special, he thought, turning left on East 3rd St. onto Walnut St. Adam admired the array of black and orange figures walking along the streets, families together enjoying a tailgate, folks waiting to enter the stadium. “You can just feel the love in that city, our city,” Wheeler said. 

Wheeler’s passion for the city of Cincinnati, for the Bengals, has been a birthmark on him his entire life. Wheeler’s dad moved to Cincinnati when he was in high school, and his mom lived in Cincinnati all her life. 

Wheeler’s mother earned the title “biggest Bengal’s fan” in the Wheeler family due to the fact that she’d lived there the longest. This, along with her ability to answer Bengals trivia questions asked by Adam’s youngest brother, who challenges her knowledge of players’ names and jersey numbers. 

Wheeler’s mother was filled with excitement, and proud of her son when hearing for the first time what he would be doing at every home game, including playoff day. 

“It was like he was playing in the game,” she said. 

11:00 a.m., Adam walked from the Central Riverfront Garage to the southwest side of Paul Brown Stadium. He entered through Gate F leading directly to the stadium tunnel. He received his wrist and arm bands, giving him access to field entry. 

Before heading to the locker room, he walked into the stadium: empty stands, security getting ready for the flock of fans, and a few players warming up on the field. 

In the locker room at 11:30 a.m., the 90-minute clock started its countdown until kickoff. Three times Adam made the walk from the locker room through the tunnel onto the field. Taking in the atmosphere of the stadium, watching the progression of the green stadium seats turning orange and black, preparing for the most thrilling part of his internship. 

Throughout the season Adam had the same responsibility at every home game. Other parts of his job included a high school football tour, where he and other members of the Stripe Squad would set up tents during local high school Friday night football games to do season ticket or box seat giveaways. 

At elementary schools and community centers Adam helped with NFL Play 60 events where he got to see the happiness and joy students got out of seeing the mascot and experiencing the excitement of ‘Who Dey’ culture. 

On Halloween, Adam and other interns, part of the Stripe Squad, had a Bengals Tent at the Cincinnati Zoo where they got to pass out candy and stickers. 

The job title of ‘Community and Fan Engagement’ was on full display throughout his internship with the Bengals. Bringing an entertaining and positive culture of the Bengals into the community. 

It was 1:00 p.m. Grabbing the ten-foot black pole, bright orange flag with ‘WHO DEY’ in black letters outlined in white, Adam made his way toward the front. Standing behind him was the entire Bengals defensive roster waiting for the call to run out of the tunnel. 

He looked behind him and glanced at all the players' tinted visors. Looking forward again toward the stadium, a man next to him gives the signal. 

Sprinting towardsthe north side of the stadium’s 30-yard line, holding the 30-pound flag, with the defense racing behind him, he makes it to his spot, holding the flag straight in the air as the wind blows it back and forth.  

Then, standing on the 30-yard sideline, the announcer calls out the Bengals offensive players onto the field. 

Both teams then fully merge to their sidelines and Adam takes the flag to the back of the end zone, where he watches the entire game, witnessing on the field, as the Bengals ended their 31-year drought.