GCU and celebrities fly their fun flags at Super Bowl event

Actor and comedian Rob Riggle takes selfies with students following the Celebrity Sweat Flag Football Challenge at GCU Stadium.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Celebrities put on a show Saturday for the Celebrity Sweat Flag Football Challenge, but host Grand Canyon University turned some heads, too.

“This is the nicest place we’ve played this,” said Tracy McGrady, an NBA Hall of Famer, captain and quarterback of Team T-Mac. “This is a beautiful campus. I was just saying yesterday that I couldn’t believe it. I could see my son going here.”

McGrady led his team to an 80-74 win over Team RG3, its third straight in the 23rd edition of this anchor event of Super Bowl weekend in the Valley, but it was all for a good cause – to support the military and first responders and their families.

Few said it better than comedian and actor Rob Riggle, who you may remember from “Saturday Night Live,” “The Daily Show” and numerous films – and he's also a Marine veteran.

Actor Frankie Muniz of Team RG3 (center) tries to avoid having his flag pulled by Team T-Mac’s Tracy McGrady (left) and comedian/actor Rob Riggle (right).

“Any chance I have to support veterans and first responders, I’m going to do it,” Riggle said. “We ask a lot of our first responders, we ask a lot of our veterans. We ask them to put their lives on the line, to write a blank check with their body every day and do it so we can live the life we have.”

But before stepping onto the field at GCU Stadium Saturday, the 52-year-old displayed his dry wit: “I’m going to be exposed so fast out there. It won’t take long.”

Some of the benefactors included Semper Fi & America’s Fund for wounded veterans and another well-known in Phoenix, The Pat Tillman Foundation, which supplies scholarships to veterans.

It’s the first year the Tillman Foundation has been involved in Celebrity Sweat’s event, and Chicago-based CEO Dan Futrell was surprised by GCU’s growing campus, encouraging its student veterans to apply for scholarships.

Former NHL hockey player Jeremy Roenick of Team RG3 (center) celebrates with students after catching a touchdown pass.

GCU students showed their uber enthusiasm cheering skills throughout, led by mascot Thunder, and they supplied a constant “Roobbb ... Riiiigglllles!” chant during the game, earning his waves and several selfies afterward.

The Thundering Heard Pep Band and GCU Cheer entertained at the tailgate before the game, and Havoc leaders joined them on the march in.

“It’s cool to do this at a football game, since we don’t have football,” said Luke Stoffel, Havocs Vice President.

Several GCU departments helped on the show, led by the Events team, but many individuals played a part, such as Lauren Frost, an athletic trainer for the GCU women’s soccer team who supplied medical care to the aging athletes.

“It was a good way to show people our stadium,” Frost said. “I love our stadium.”

Of all the celebrities, which included NFL quarterbacks and Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III (RG3) and Doug Flutie leading the losing team’s effort, perhaps none was more familiar with GCU than Frankie Muniz.

Team RG3 captain and former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III shows off his skills.

The “Malcolm in the Middle” star is a regular attendee at GCU basketball games and was right at home on campus.

“Just the environment and the school are beautiful,” he said. “I like everything that GCU is about, so I come out and support the basketball team, support the school and it’s a good time. I’ve been to a lot of arenas and a lot of different types of games, and this is really cool.”

Muniz was not there to mess around on RG3’s team. “I’m competitive,” he said. “I’m going to Daytona next week.”

Muniz is making his second run at auto racing, this time on the full ARCA Menards Series, starting with the Feb. 18 Daytona race. Playing football against elite athletes and racing cars doesn’t worry Muniz, who has suffered numerous concussions and mini strokes in his life.

“You can’t live afraid, right?” he said. “Obviously, I don’t want to get hurt. But you can’t let that slow you down.”

The afternoon showcased Phoenix’s sunny, perfect weather as eyes were trained to the sky at the start as the football descended on the wings of the veteran-owned Frog-X Parachute Team, its members skidding to the turf.

Athletes such as former Phoenix Suns player Shawn Marion, pro wrestlers Brie and Nikki Bella, UFC fighter Justin Gaethje, former pro hockey star Jeremy Roenick and numerous others ran a fast-paced game full of steady touchdowns.

None were more athletic than K.J. Osborn, one of the few active athletes on the field, a receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.

NFL receiver K.J. Osborn does“The Griddy” for students after catching a touchdown pass.

“I’m coming out here for the people, put on a show, run around and have some fun,” he said, dismissing any worries of an injury. “I’m out here for the Super Bowl, so it’s all fun. I definitely will be going 30%.”

It didn’t look like it in the game televised locally by NBC’s KPNX (Channel 12). He caught the first touchdown, performed his team’s signature “The Griddy” dance, caught a second one and  led a “Skol chant” for fans before finishing with four touchdowns for RG3’s team.

“We were talking on the way in our Uber. This place is beautiful, good weather and the field is beautiful,” he said.

Social media personality Josh Richards (center) tries to avoid actor Hannibal Burress.

Despite all that athletic talent, students saved some of their loudest cheers for social media stars, such as TikTok influencer Josh Richards.

He even made a catch or two, as did Muniz, while some football stars, such as Flutie, were happy just to run in the grass (Flutie without shoes) and hike the ball.

McGrady, flinging spirals like he was not a basketball but football star, collected the trophy and compared his team’s three-peat to Michael Jordan’s.

But Jordan didn’t have Riggle on his team.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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