When Abingdon resident Rose Ihedigbo enrolled her sons in Pop Warner youth football as children, she had no idea it would put her youngest son James on a path to an appearance in the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
"I never though he would go this far," Rose Ihedigbo said Tuesday. "The goal at the time was exposing him to football because he wanted to play football."
James Ihedigbo (pronounced ee-hed-ee-boh), 29, is in his first season with the Ravens as a safety. He has been in the NFL since 2008, spending his first three seasons with the New York Jets and his fourth with the New England Patriots.
Sunday's Super Bowl will be his second consecutive appearance in the championship game, having been a member of the Patriots in when the lost to Giants last year. It's also his fourth consecutive season as a member of an AFC-champion team.
"Hard work, perseverance and faith in God, that's what propelled him to do what he's doing and I'm amazed at all times," Rose Ihedigbo said. "I'm saying, 'Thank you, God.' "
Rose Ihedigbo is a native of southern Nigeria. Her late husband, Apollos came to the United States in 1979 and settled in New York City. She followed a year later with their then-three children, daughter Onyiyii and sons Emeka and Nathaniel
Their youngest sons, David and James, were born in the United States. James grew up in Amherst, Mass., and played football there in high school and then at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Rose has written of her experiences working, attending school and raising five children with her husband, in a book to be published next month.
The book is entitled "Sandals in the Snow," and will be published through Tate Publishing of Oklahoma.
"The title of my book is 'Sandals in the Snow,' " she said. "That was because when I arrived with three children I was wearing sandals, not realizing how much snow that was here in the United States and having not seen snow before, that was shocking and surprising."
Her first husband passed away from illness in 2000 while in Nigeria, tending to the technical school he had started to serve local children.
Rose Ihedigbo took over the leadership of the school, named the Nigerian American Technological and Agricultural College.
She also has a bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree in early childhood education, and currently serves as an independent consultant in the field.
She has since remarried to the Rev. Riley Franklin.
Rose Ihedigbo plans to travel to New Orleans Thursday to watch her son play in the Super Bowl. She said he exemplifies the values she and his father instilled in him, the values of hard work, perseverance and faith in God.
"He's a very, very hard worker, and you can tell that hard work plays out," she said.