On December 13, celebrities from the worlds of cinema, sports, music and television came together to provide our nation's heroes with a once in a lifetime event. Only thing is, the soldiers had no idea what lied in wait for them!
Cerritos College played host to twenty-eight unsuspecting service men and women who believed they'd been gathered to play a casual game of flag football to benefit Got Your 6 and the Pat Tillman Foundation. Unbeknownst to them, more than 12,000 fans were eagerly awaiting to cheer them on as they entered the jam-packed stadium. And the surprises didn't stop there.
After they were split into two teams, the soldiers were surprised to find their coaches were the legendary Bobby Bowden and Urban Meyer. Then each team was given a pro to play alongside when Kurt Warner and Marcus Allen took sides. Finally, they discovered Owen Wilson would also be playing, while Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet served as sideline reporter.
It was a day no one on-site would soon forget, and neither will you since the entire experience was captured on film and will be televised nationally during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl broadcast on ESPN on January 3, 2013. ETonline caught up with Stonestreet to talk about this moving day.
ETonline: How did this opportunity come about?
Eric Stonestreet: I think Tostitos know I'm a big sports fan. It also happens that my college, Kansas State University, is playing in the Fiesta Bowl this year against Ty Burrell's Oregon Ducks, so that might have had a little bit to do with it. Lending my name and face to good organizations is very important to me, and the homecoming party they threw was to benefit The Pat Tillman foundation and I Got Your Six Foundation; two great organizations that help military families.
RELATED - 12 Best TV Shows of 2012
ETonline: How surprised were the soldiers?
Stonestreet: They were pretty shocked. It was cool to be a little bit a part of that surprise and see the looks on the faces of these veterans, who thought they were just playing a pick-up game. I don't think they had any inkling of what was going on, and even if they knew something, there's no way they could have imagined the extent to which Tostitos was taking it. They did a really good job of rolling out the surprises one after another after another. Right when they're thinking, "It can't get better than this," a guy jumps out of an airplane and drops the gameball in the center of the field. The shock and awe I heard all day was unreal.
ETonline: Did the pros lie down and let the soldiers win?
Stonestreet: Oh no, both teams played very, very hard. I was actually pretty surprised by how hard they went at each other [laughs]. There was no giving up on either side, everyone wanted to win.
RELATED - Modern Family Snags Golden Globe & SAG Nominations
ETonline: If the tables were turned, who would you like to play a round of football with?
Stonestreet: Ever? Joe Montana or John Elway. But right now, I think Peyton Manning is great. If I got the chance to strap on a pair of shoulderpads and a helmet, I would, first, not want to have my physical abilities [laughs]. I would also like to be a really good athlete, because I would do nothing but get hurt as is. I love watching people do what they're good at, whether it's acting or dancing or landscaping. I like seeing talented people do what they were put on this Earth to do.
ETonline: It's clear that you were put on this Earth to act and have two Emmys to prove it.
Stonestreet: I wouldn't still be in this business, 18 years later, if I didn't think there was the possibility of getting to the place I'm at now. I didn't know it was going to be with this character or with this TV show, or that it would have all the awards and accolades and viewers. All that is surprise, after surprise, after surprise, after surprise. All I've ever wanted to do is entertain people -- make them laugh, think, smile, feel creeped out or scared; whatever it is. I'm getting the opportunity to do that in various roles. I have a movie coming out in February with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. People will see me in a very different light after that movie. I did another movie called The Loft where I play a totally different character than I do on Modern Family or in Identity Thief.
ETonline: When looking at projects, what is more important to you: variety or opportunity?
Stonestreet: It starts with the project being exciting and interesting to me. That's where it starts and if it's vastly different than anything I've previously done, that's great too. I definitely think about this stuff. I want to educate people and let them know I'm an actor. If my career had been all versions of Cam, I'd be nervous about that, but I'd never played anyone like Cam, before Cam. It would be hard for anyone to convince me to play a flamboyantly gay man in a movie because I am already getting to do that for millions of people every week at a very high level. My goals are just to entertain and be an actor and bring a character to life.
For more on Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and to see highlights from the game, click here!