Which professional athlete would turn down a free first-class seat, preferring to stay in coach?
Which professional athlete would be flying out of Miami not after a night of hard partying on South Beach, but rather making a connection from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after doing relief work there?
And, which professional athlete, instead of trying to remain “low pro” and not be bothered by fans, would go out of his way to greet admiring fans seeking autographs and photos?
The answer: My favorite pro athlete role model, Carson Wentz.
As a self-proclaimed “MiamAdelphian,” I split my time between my two favorite cities, Miami and Philadelphia. I have flown between these two great cities around 1,000 times since 1970, seeing and meeting countless athletes, celebrities, and other people.
My Miami-to-Philadelphia trip on April 12 started off routine, and then everyone in the first-class section where I was seated got excited as Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz walked down the aisle. He was smiling and being very friendly, saying hello and shaking hands with doting fans.
Surprisingly, he continued through the first-class cabin to take his seat in coach. Several passengers and I began wondering why he wasn’t sitting up front.
As a long-time Eagles fan, going back to the early ’60s before the Miami Dolphins even existed, I said to myself, “This is not right. Carson Wentz belongs in first class,” especially after his role in bringing Philadelphia its first Super Bowl championship since 1960. At that point, I decided to give him my fully reclining seat with three times the space compared with his coach seat.
Once airborne, I took my bag and boarding pass for Seat 4A and walked back, and saw him in a deep sleep with his hat and earphones on. “Do I dare wake the Eagles quarterback?” I thought.
Since I knew that Jason Kelce or any of his other very protective offensive linemen were not with him, I began lightly shaking his shoulder and then his knee (not his recently surgically repaired one) to wake him. Finally, he woke up in a daze and looked at me, as if “Who are you?” Fortunately, I happened to be wearing one of my Eagles shirts, so he knew I was a friendly.
I smiled and said, “Carson, you are being moved up front in first class to Seat 4A,” as I gave him my boarding pass. Then, fully awake, he smiled and politely said, “No, thank you, but I am fine back here.”
I then persisted and said, “Your new seat is much bigger and fully reclining, where you will get a much better rest,” to which he again replied, “Thank you, but I am good back here, plus I have my bag overhead, and this is fine.”
Before I returned to my seat, I could not resist asking him for a selfie with him, and he smiled and said, “Absolutely!” and he gave the nicest smile in my keepsake photo.
As we deplaned, he again very politely thanked me for the offer and went on his way. I later learned he was connecting from Port-au-Prince after doing relief work there, and I was not surprised to see him wearing a cross on his neck.
I thought to myself, “What a great role model for our children.” And, as a parent of two grown sons, I only wish I could share this story with his parents to tell them what a great job they did with Carson and how blessed Philadelphia is to have him.
Kenneth H. Thomas is a retired faculty member of the Wharton School and president of the Miami-based Community Development Fund Advisors.