Souper Stars: B.C. Dragons' players to appear in commercial for Campbell's Soup with McNabb, other Eagles
BY BRIAN MORITZ
Press & Sun-Bulletin
The play has broken down, leaving Donovan McNabb scrambling around the field.
As he does, Joe Hashey, 23, of Johnson City, blocks a Browns defender. McNabb breaks free and completes a touchdown pass to running back Brian Westbrook.
The cameras stop. The players gather to run the play again, with Hashey lining up as a tight end.
Even though it's a TV commercial, Hashey -- a tight end on the Broome Country Dragons -- will always be able to say he blocked for Donovan McNabb.
"Sadly enough, that will probably be one of my career highlights," he joked.
Hashey was one of nine members from the B.C. Dragons who suited up as extras for a Campbell's Chunky Soup commercial filmed at the Meadowlands. Hashey, Steve Tammariello, Josh DuMond, Keith Harendza, Don Hashey, Pasquale Iacono, Sal Silinonte, and assistant coaches Tyson Figueroa and Bucky Clough all took part in the May 9 shoot. The commercial is slated to begin airing during the coming NFL season.
In all, 31 players from the Empire Football League took part in the 12-hour shoot at Giants Stadium. They were joined by six members of the Philadelphia Eagles -- McNabb, Westbrook, Hugh Douglas, Jevon Kearse, David Akers and Hank Fraley -- along with McNabb's mother, who has appeared in ads with her son for years.
"The producers said they were looking forward to working with us again in the future," EFL commissioner Dave Burch said. "They were pleased with the work ethic of our guys."
For one day, the semi-pro players got to put on NFL uniforms in an NFL locker room and share the field with the NFC champions. Some, like Hashey, wore Eagles uniforms and "played" offense. Others were dressed in Browns uniforms and were defenders.
The EFL's involvement began two weeks before the May 9 shoot. Burch received a call at his Endicott office from the casting agency in charge of the commercial. The agency was looking for semi-pro football players to fill out the spots for the McNabb ad. Burch put out a request to the teams in the league that were close to the New York/New Jersey area. Players made audition tapes that were sent to the agency.
The Monday of the shoot, players arrived at the Meadowlands at 5 a.m.
"The moment we pulled into the Meadowlands, we got out of the car and walked in the tunnel where the (NFL team) buses park," Figueroa said. "You could see how big the stadium is, how big the field is, and you just think how they play in front of sellout crowds in stadiums like this every week."
By 7 a.m., they were in NFL uniforms and on the field.
"We got on the field real early, and just walking on the field in the empty stadium was a great feeling," Mayo said.
For five hours, the semi-pro players worked on the play, getting the details right. At noon, the Eagles showed up and filming began.
"It was actually a lot of hard work," said Hashey, who played at Colgate and is returning to his alma mater next month to work on his Master's degree.
Everybody ran through the play more than 200 times in 80-plus degree weather so it could be filmed from every angle.
"It looks very, very realistic," said George Ashcraft, the Watertown coach who served as a technical adviser.
The day was an eye-opener for the semipro contingent in a lot of ways.
They saw McNabb effortlessly drop pass after pass into Westbrook's hands. The guys in the EFL are all in good shape, but they were standing next to pro athletes like Kearse, who's 6-foot-4, 265 pounds.
While the Eagles' defensive players shot their parts on the sideline, the offensive players mingled on the field. McNabb cracked jokes in the huddle. Hashey talked to Westbrook, whom he played against in college (Westbrook went to Villanova).
The players posed for countless pictures and signed autographs.
"They are so enormously bigger than I could have imagined," Hashey said. "Even playing competitive college football, you don't really see guys like that. I was also struck by how down to Earth they were. They were just guys playing football and having fun. They were all really good guys, really friendly guys."
Figueroa said many of the Eagles players told the semi-pro guys they admired how the Dragons and others still play football despite holding down full-time jobs.
"You guys are the spirit of the game," is what Figueroa said McNabb told them.
"We all sit down and watch football every Sunday, and (the Eagles) are guys -- we don't idolize them, but we do look up to them," Figueroa said. "To have guys you watch on national TV every Sunday tell you they admire you, that was a big thrill."