To our readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century type story, ... Click here to continue

With Skycam, part of historic game

RDHS graduate Czosnek gets up close, personal view of Super Bowl

Former Tiger on-hand for epic Buccaneer, Tom Brady football championship win over Kansas City Chiefs
By Mark Haskell | Feb 22, 2021
Courtesy of: Shawn Norris Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. Here she lies on the National Football League logo on the 50-yard line.

Tampa, Fla. — Shortly after the conclusion of Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Samantha Czosnek posted a photo of herself on social media.

“I am unapologetic for being fearlessly authentic,” she said. “Kick down those doors and make your dreams happen.”

Those dreams, as they do for many, changed often for the now 36-year-old Czosnek, who is a 2003 Rockland District High School graduate and was a three-sport athlete during her time toiling with the Tigers.

But the long, winding road she chose brought her to Super Bowl 55, where she was able to be one of many at Raymond James Stadium who helped bring the event, viewed by more than 96 million people, to life.

Watch video and see nearly 25 photos below.

Czosnek, who lives in Peabody, Mass., worked the Super Bowl for Skycam, the company that has the computer-controlled camera system of the same name that flies on cables among many high-profile sporting events, to give viewers a bird's-eye view of the action.

She began work with Skycam as a freelancer in September and, since that time, has had the enviable position for many New England Patriot fans of working one of the four reels high above Gillette Stadium for the team’s eight home games.

She was later chosen to be one of the four operators for the same position at this year’s Super Bowl.

Working Patriots' games

And, when the Patriots were on the road, she also worked home games for Boston College football as a production assistant for ESPN.

While the pinnacle of Czosnek’s story, to date, perhaps is the most impressive, her journey is just as fascinating.

Czosnek grew up the daughter of Mike and Becky Czosnek, the former of whom owned and operated Rock Coast Sports in Rockland 1995 to 2013.

Growing up in that store was paramount in her gravitation toward sports, where she later played varsity goalie in soccer, center in basketball and first base for softball at RDHS.

She also was an avid hockey player, skier and drag racer, who participated in many of those activities with her older brother, Terry.

“I was kind of the kid that did everything,” she said.

Czosnek later spent time attending Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, along with her brother, where they played on the school’s ice hockey team.

“They didn’t have a girls hockey team,” she said. “So I had to play on the men’s team, which was pretty cool too. I was the only girl on the team, obviously, but it was really cool to be on the same team with Terry. It was so much fun.”

After moving back to Rockland for a time, Czosnek made a bold career move in 2017 as she and her husband, Mike Mattson, moved to New Orleans, where she entered the entertainment industry.

“They call it Hollywood South,” she said of New Orleans. “They do a lot of movies and TV shows down there.”

Makeup to production

Czosnek got her start as a professional makeup artist, and worked on set of several movies and television shows.

“But really when I saw what went into production, I got hooked on that,” she said. “So I decided to get into the production aspect instead. I loved that so much, versus doing makeup.”

“Whatever I could get my hands into on set, I would do it. Whether that was working five days for this TV show, or two days for this movie as a production assistant, I would.”

Czosnek has a list of movie and television credits, much like that of an actor, having worked on television shows such as "The Highwaymen," "Preacher" and "NCIS: New Orleans," along with films such as "Bill and Ted Face the Music," "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot" and "Green Book," among others.

She recalled meeting Keanu Reeves, her childhood crush, on the set of "Bill and Ted Face the Music."

“I’m never sideswiped by celebrities,” she said. “I met Stephen King when I was 11, and that was cool. But I meet Keanu Reeves, and everyone on the set knew that I loved him, and I meet him, and I turned red and my jaw dropped. He was so nice, but I’m blushing now just talking about it.”

New Orleans, while it is known as Hollywood South to some, it is also prime, college football country as it is in the middle of of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the most competitive football conference in the nation — and probably the world.

COVID-19 struggles

In 2020, the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome in New Orleans, also was the site of the Division I National Championship game between Clemson and Louisiana State University (LSU).

And, through her networking in “The Big Easy,” Czosnek was hired as a production assistant by ESPN for the national championship game between the teams, which saw LSU defeat Clemson 42-25.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I was on the field the whole time, so I got hooked even more on the sports aspect.”

Though, just two months later in March, Czosnek’s health knocked her life sideways.

Health issues are nothing new for Czosnek. As a teenager she suffered from ulcerative colitis and eventually had a colectomy, which is a procedure that removes part or all of one’s colon.

This time, like many, she was part of the first large wave of Americans to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Czosnek's diagnosis was chronic COVID syndrome, or Long COVID, as her symptoms lasted longer than the more customary two-week bout.

“I still don’t know how I got it,” she said. “But I was in bed for like two months. It was awful. It was the worst thing ever. And they wouldn’t let people in the hospital unless you were literally dying. That’s how bad it was a few weeks into everything.”

She said she started feeling better “by month eight,” but said, “Even to this day my smell and taste is still only like 60 percent back.”

Back to New England

During this time, she and her husband, who is in the U.S. Coast Guard, was appointed as a Boatswain’s Mater Senior Chief (BMCS) in Boston, which relocated the couple in May to nearby Peabody.

While thrilled for her husband’s promotion, “there wasn’t anything like [what I was doing] going on like there was down in the south.”

But, eventually, Czosnek was hired as a freelancer by Skycam.

She said her pivot from makeup to production, while in New Orleans, ultimately opened that opportunity.

“It was all about networking and establishing those connections,” she said. “I got the Skycam gig because of my experience in production since 2017 and my ESPN experience.”

And, ultimately, that previous experience helped her get to Super Bowl 55.

“We had our last home game with the Patriots, and I thought that was done,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, next will be college basketball,’ maybe, because of COVID.”

Czosnek, who is tested regularly for COVID (she estimated around 25 times since September) considered filing for unemployment. But her boss, based on her prior experience, urged her to apply to work Super Bowl 55 in Tampa.

Super Bowl or bust

“My boss said to me, ‘Have you thought about the Super Bowl?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I hope the Saints get in,’ " she recalled. “And he said, ‘No, working for it.’ "

Czosnek said 25 employees from Skycam nationwide worked the Sunday, Feb. 7 event, 21 of who are salaried employees, with the other four chosen based on an application process.

One of those four chosen among applicants nationwide was Czosnek. Which was a surprise to her, given it is her first year at Skycam. She said another applicant was chosen from Miami and another from Savannah, Ga.

“I got the call 40 minutes after [I filled out my application],” she said. “And they told me I was going to go to the Super Bowl to work. I tried to act as calm as possible, but inside, I’m just elated.”

Of course, Czosnek’s responsibilities are not simply to sit in front of a cable and watch sporting events.

Setting up Skycam for sporting events usually begins two days before the event. All the trucks must be unloaded — and later reloaded — with thousands of pounds of equipment. She said, for a typical 8:30 p.m. game, they can have the trucks reloaded by about 3:30 a.m, “if we’re fast.”

“No matter what your job is at Skycam, everybody does this,” she said. “The reels weigh about 150 pounds apiece and we’ve got four. We lay the 4,000 feet of fiber optic cable all-around the stadium and feed it up to central [where the pilots are] and we have to rig it up from the very tops of the stadium so the skycap can drive. We have computers, monitors, back-up reels.”

“There is no easy way to haul this stuff up.”

For the Super Bowl, the amount of equipment was largely doubled.

Experience of lifetime

Being in attendance at the Super Bowl is one thing. But being at one in the midst of a pandemic made the normally uber-exclusive event even more-so.

She said, “The Super Bowl went flawless.” Not only in terms of her and Skycam’s direct involvement, but overall and in terms of COVID protocols as well.

And, watching Tom Brady win his seventh Super Bowl was the cherry on the sundae.

“It was un-effing-real,” she said. “I don’t want to sound corny, but it was an out-of-body experience. I could have cried. It was beautiful.”

Now, as a freelancer, Czosnek is free to continue working as a PA for other sports. She anticipates working college basketball games in the near future, in addition to other professional sports throughout the region.

But working Super Bowl 55 will be a tough story to top.

“To be able to say, 20 years down the road, that I watched Tom Brady get his seventh ring, during a pandemic, in person, while working … it’s definitely going down as one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

And, it was the less traditional route traveled that got her there.

And be damned if she is going to stop being fearlessly authentic and kicking down doors now.

“I’m not going to give this up,” she said. “I’m really happy.”

Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla.
Scenes from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Video by: Samantha Czosnek and Zack Miller)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Shawn Norris)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Shawn Norris)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Shawn Norris)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla.
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
Scene from Samantha Czosnek at Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. (Courtesy of: Samantha Czosnek)
If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.
Note: If you signed up using our new subscriber portal, your username is the email address you registered with and your password is in all caps