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Tyler County's biggest Eagles fan weighs in on Super Bowl Sunday

Tyler County Booster

By Chris Edwards

The voicemail message on Stefanie Hensarling's cell phone explains that the most likely cause of her inaccessibility is due to "watching an Eagles game." Given Hensarling's devotion to the team, it's safe to say that she is hard to reach by phone. Come Sunday, Tyler County's biggest Philadelphia Eagles fan will probably be celebrating the entire day leading up to her team's battle for the Lombardi Trophy against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Hensarling comes by her love of the Philadelphia Eagles honestly. A native of the Philadelphia, Hensarling and her family moved to Woodville at age 14. Growing up in The City of Brotherly Love, Hensarling witnessed her father's devotion to their hometown team on game day. "My dad, Richard McMaster, would have all his friends over and have a huge spread with all kinds of food, such as chicken wings, Philly cheesesteaks, Lebanon bologna and cream cheese roll ups," she said. "I was always excited for the game to come on because of the camaraderie that was in our house at the time, and of course, the food. When we moved to Woodville he still kept the spread tradition going, and my passion for the Eagles grew until it is now almost an obsession." She joked that her passion for the birds from Philly just might be an obsession after all. She is a devoted wife, mother of two boys, and she works as a Head Start teacher at Lil' Eagles Child Development Center in Woodville. Unlike mild-mannered Clark Kent turning into Superman, Hensarling doesn't keep her superfan status a secret. Despite her professional attitude and good-natured cheer, she will defend her favorite team at the slightest hint of derision in someone's voice, something that is bound to happen in Cowboys and Texans-worshipping territory. "Eagles fans are definitely a breed all their own and we embrace it and thrive on it," she said. Hensarling says that even in Texas there are pockets of dedicated Eagles fans. A group of fans meet on game days at a sports bar in Houston called Ladybirds. The group, which calls itself the Houston Eagles Nest, began about 15 years ago and has grown so large that it had to move from a smaller bar to the current venue. "It's strictly an Eagles bar. Every time we go it is an experience," she said. "After every point scored, 200 or so fans will start singing the Eagles fight song, and it is amazing. The passion of an Eagles fan is like nothing else." This year's Super Bowl appearance may also settle a score for devout Eagles fans. The Eagles finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and walloped the Minnesota Vikings to earn their spot in the championship game. When the Eagles face the Patriots on Sunday, it could vindicate a loss handed them in the 2004 Super Bowl by the same team. "Every single Eagles fan will tell you that we all knew it was fixed and that the Patriots cheated," Hensarling said. "We are back for revenge as the Philadelphia Underdogs and we will prevail." Hensarling said at the beginning of the regular season, she hoped the Eagles would enjoy a better record than in the 2016 season, but a Super Bowl chance seemed like the product of her dreams. "After seeing [Eagles starting QB] Carson Wentz stay so consistent, I knew there was a chance we would go far … I am always optimistic each season and if I get negative my son tells me there is always a chance," she said. Having a family of Eagles fans helps Hensarling maintain the traditions and the optimism that her favorite team can reach the brass ring. Although most of her family members are fans, it is her 12-year-old son Kyson who is as dedicated a fan as she is. "He knows everything there is to know about Eagles past and present," she said. "He is our good luck charm whether he wants to believe it or not." If her Eagles pendant and her frequent sporting of Eagles attire is not enough to give off her fandom, visitors to Hensarling's home would have no doubt as to where her football loyalty lay. A wall-towall collection of memorabilia would put most football fans to shame.

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