When purple confetti rained down in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday in New Orleans following the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, it had special meaning for one area family.
In the middle of the championship celebration was Byron native and Ravens safety Sean Considine.
Nearly 850 miles away in Peoria was one of his biggest fans.
Ann Pucharich, Considine’s first cousin once removed, has been one of Considine’s biggest fans and followers during his eight-year NFL career. But over the last eight months, the La Salle resident has battled leukemia, which eventually forced her into OSF St. Francis Hospital in Peoria for treatment.
After undergoing rounds of chemotherapy to battle the leukemia, Pucharich recently took a turn for the worse in recent weeks. She was put into a medically-induced coma and had a ventilator attached to assist with breathing.
However, while she continued her battle on Sunday, her family made sure she didn’t miss the biggest game of Sean’s career.
With her husband Dave at her side, the family watched the Super Bowl in her hospital room and put the TV speakers near her ear - just in case she could hear it.
“She is a big fan of Sean,” said her sister, Florence Zeman. “She and her husband have watched Sean for all eight seasons that he’s been in the NFL.”
Sunday night’s Ravens victory brought a little extra light to her family during Pucharich’s struggles.
“I am certain this will be a great boost to her spirits and keep her fighting,” said her brother, Jonathon Brandt.
Sunday’s win was a special moment for the Considine family, many of whom stayed in Illinois to be near Ann.
Spread across La Salle and Peru, Zeman, Brandt and their 14 other siblings are first cousins of Sean Considine’s father, Rick.
Sean Considine led Byron to a Class 3A state football title in 1999 while also starring in basketball.
He then played college football at the University of Iowa before he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles as a safety with the first pick in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Considine played for the Eagles for four years before spending two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2011, he played for both the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals before signing this season with the Ravens, for whom he was a backup safety and a member of the punt return, kickoff and kickoff return teams.
“Ever since he got drafted out of the University of Iowa, it’s been a very, very exciting time,” said Jeff Considine, Pucharich’s brother and Sean Considine’s first cousin once removed.
“He did so well at Iowa and he did so well in Byron that we knew he was going to do something and that he was going to go places, but for him to get to the point that every childhood boy dreams of - getting to the NFL - and then to play in the Super Bowl has been amazing. It’s been quite a remarkable journey.”
The family - which in the L-P area is mostly Bears fans - has also become fans of whatever team for which Sean has played.
“It’s very exciting to watch and see somebody you know on TV and have that much success,” Brandt said. “When you watch other players play, you can’t really relate to that person, but to actually know the person and talk to the person who is playing on TV and winning a Super Bowl is pretty special.”
Brandt and nearly 50 other family members - both immediate relation and distant - watched Sunday’s game at a sports bar in New Orleans.
By the end of the Super Bowl, everyone in the establishment was rooting for Sean Considine.
“It was a lot of fun for us,” Brandt said. “A lot of the bar was packed with other people, and I think they were kind of impressed with the family spirit and that we were all wearing No. 37 Sean Considine jerseys. Whenever the rest of the bar saw him on TV, they would cheer to make us cheer. That made it a lot of fun.”
The Super Bowl victory capped an incredible journey for Sean Considine and the Ravens, who struggled through adversity like Pucharich.
“I’m going to see her and I want to make sure she knows (Sean won),” said Zeman, who visited her sister on Monday in Peoria . “I’m going to find something purple to put on her.”
Now that her favorite player is a Super Bowl champion.
Jared Bell is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.