From Super Bowl Host Committee to SJU wide receiver – all in one day

Bookmark and Share

January 29, 2018

By Mike Killeen

Throughout the course of his five-year career as a wide receiver for the Saint John’s University football team, Dan Harrington ran up against some pretty tough defensive backs in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

They held him. They pressed him. They talked thrash to him. Anything to prevent him from making a reception.

But it turns out Harrington’s biggest challenge during his senior year in the fall wasn’t a nasty cornerback or safety.

It was his schedule.

Dan Harrington Throughout the season, Harrington pulled off a rare trifecta — he served as an operations intern for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, went to night classes at SJU and the College of Saint Benedict, and somehow found time to play football with the Johnnies.

“That was really the busiest time of my entire life,” Harrington said.

How busy?

“I’d get up super early and go to work (in Minneapolis with the Host Committee),” said Harrington, who lived in St. Joseph. “I’d try to leave at about 1:45 p.m. so I could get back (to Collegeville) by 3 or 3:15 p.m., watch film, then practice and go to night class. I’d wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

“It was absolutely 100 percent worth it. That’s what I told myself every day. It’s paid off,” Harrington said.  

“To be honest, when I went to watch film at 3 p.m., sometimes I would just have to take a nap,” Harrington said. “That was before practice, just because I had to. Kole (Heckendorf, his position coach) was definitely very understanding of that.

“They would be watching film, and I would be passed out over there,” Harrington said, laughing.

Harrington completed an internship with the Minneapolis Downtown Council in the summer of 2016. That opportunity helped him join the Super Bowl Host Committee, which is “really a liaison between the NFL and the City of Minneapolis,” he said.

Harrington playing footballHarrington managed, planned and executed the Host Committee’s operational needs, including weather preparedness plans, vendor outreach, volunteer management and Super Bowl LIVE. He created population density maps for the downtown Minneapolis core area and prepared a snow management plan for Super Bowl LIVE, the series of outdoor concerts and other activities from Jan. 26-Feb. 4 on the Nicollet Mall.

“What I’ve learned very quickly since I started is that there needs to be contingency plans for everything, because we have to be prepared for anything, and one of those things is the weather,” Harrington said. “It’s a unique place because there hasn’t really been a Super Bowl like this before in the sense of the stadium being in the heart of downtown.

“The footprint that we’re working with needs to be very carefully constructed so if anything comes up – like weather, like a snowstorm – we have a plan in place in order to make things run smoothly,” Harrington said. “What I’ve been doing is that I’ve been working with a few contractors and talking to business owners seeing how they manage the snow outside of their business.”

That’s necessary when one million visitors – both Minnesotans and out-of-town guests – are projected to attend the Super Bowl and related activities.

“We want to make sure there’s snow, but not too much snow. We want to have a Minnesota flavor to it, but not too much,” Harrington said.

His last day with the Host Committee will be Feb. 9. He had been told he might have some responsibilities for planning a Super Bowl victory parade for the Minnesota Vikings, but the Philadelphia Eagles ended that option with a 38-7 victory in the NFC Championship game.

Harrington has accepted an offer to work full-time for Boom Lab, a technology consulting company that works with Minnesota-based Fortune 500 companies like 3M or Cargill.

But he may not be done with sports just yet.

“The optimal path for me would be to go from the Super Bowl Host Committee to the NCAA Basketball Final Four Committee (which Minneapolis hosts in 2019), and then from there I think I’d have enough experience to go to the next Super Bowl (in Miami) in 2020. That is my ultimate goal,” Harrington said.

“Working with this Host Committee has really opened my eyes to what it could be like in cities other than Minneapolis. It’s definitely something I’ll pursue.”

At some point, he said he will reflect on what he has done in the last five months.

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work with the NFL for a game like this, for an event that impacts the entire city – the entire state, really. It’s on a whole other level, and I had the opportunity while I was actually playing for Saint John’s, which was really unique,” Harrington said.

“I think I’m going to look back and say this might be the best job I’m ever going to have. It’s been outstanding. The people here are very good at what they do, and I’ve been able to learn so much from them. I’ve really been spoiled to be part of a team like this,” he said.

He was also part of several great teams at SJU – both on the field and in the classroom.

“I think that Saint John’s totally sculpted me for this opportunity, and I can’t thank the school enough. The football aspect of it, being a part of the team has definitely helped me coming into this role,” he said. “I’ve learned from the coaches on the team, from the players on the team, and they helped me get to this spot.

“Saint John’s is a really special place to me. I owe a lot to it.”

Photo credits:

Photo 1 (Harrington sitting): Amanda Lang

Photo 2 (Harrington playing football):Sean Donohue '16