Utah’s newest sports celebrity does not play for the Jazz, Utes, Cougars or Real Salt Lake.
Sam Gordon is 9 years old and plays for Herriman in the Gremlin Division of the Ute Conference — football for little leaguers.
Sam is a speedy running back, fearless on defense and a team leader.
Samantha Gordon is also a girl who, thanks to the Internet, has become a global star.
This morning, she appeared on “Good Morning America,” where anchor Josh Elliott unveiled a Wheaties cereal box featuring her image.
Under her photo, bold type on the box reads: “Sam Gordon Football Star.”
Spokeswoman Julie Johnson said General Mills Inc. created the custom box for Sam, adding it will not be sold in stories.
Sam told Elliott her newfound stardom has “been very awesome.”
She’s “a beautiful, sweet little girl who happens to be a great athlete,” Herriman coach Chris Staib said earlier.
“I’ve seen her play,” said Matt Hines, president of the Ute League’s Herriman District. “She’s a cute little bugger.”
During the just-completed season, Sam ran for more than 2,000 yards and scored 35 touchdowns. Out of admiration, her teammates have nicknamed her “Sweet Feet.”
“She’s just tenacious, whether she’s got the ball and running with it or whether they have the ball and are running at her,” said Staib.
During a tackling drill this season, Samantha demonstrated her fearlessness when she found herself lined up against a 150-pound teammate known as ‘Tank.”
“I thought, ‘Oh, boy,’ and I tried to change the match-up,” Staib recalled. “But she told me, ‘No, Coach. Don’t.’ And then, with every amount of her capability, she tackled him.”
To commemorate the season-to-remember, Idaho lawyer Brent Gordon made a video of his daughter’s most amazing plays, which turned Samantha’s feel-good local story into a worldwide YouTube sensation.
After a link to the video found its way onto a BYU athletic message board, the Sam Gordon Fan Club exploded.
“It’s kind of surprising, the amount of attention it’s gotten,” Hines said. “I saw the original [video] and didn’t expect much. The next thing I know, holy smokes.”
Four hours after the link appeared on the BYU message board, Staid said, it had received 250,000 hits. By nightfall, the number jumped to 1 million.
“It was just crazy,” Staib said. “Nothing expected or engineered. Just a really great story that, obviously, a lot of people like.”
In the days since the video first appeared, Samantha’s fame has spread to the mainstream media.
She has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Today” and “The View.” She also taped a segment for the NFL Channel’s pregame show.
After seeing Samantha’s favorite sport is actually soccer, United States women’s team member Abby Wambach tweeted a message to her:
“Sam Gordon, heard [you] were a fan. I am one of yours. Get in touch with me and I’ll fly you and a parent out to a game before Xmas. Sound good?”
Samantha wears No. 6 when she’s playing football. She picked the jersey because of her admiration for former BYU and NFL running back Luke Staley.
Coincidentally, Staley has a son who plays in the Gremlin League. He coaches the team, which defeated Herriman in the playoffs.
A few days later, Samantha received some autographed NFL trading cards from Staley.
“There are so many stories in the news that are so — I don’t know — not uplifting,” Staib said. “To see a wonderful little girl like this succeeding in football; what an uplifting story.”
Samantha Gordon file
Rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a running back for Herriman.
Became a viral web hit when her father put her highlights on YouTube.
Her favorite sport is soccer.