Willie Nelson’s Super Bowl 2023 commercial and long love of football

At 89, Willie Nelson has already established himself as an icon of American music. Just last week, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and last Sunday won his 11th Grammy for Live Forever, his tribute album to his good friend, the late singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver. .

But on Sunday, he again finds himself close to the center of the TV universe. Nelson stars in a Super Bowl commercial for the second straight year alongside fellow old pal Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart for the new BIC EZ Reach lighters. Snoop and Willy starred in lighter commercials on the biggest stage in broadcasting – no big deal for two old friends who have recorded songs together on each other’s albums, including the most famous “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me”. When I die.”

“Naturally, it was a lot of fun,” Nelson told Sportzshala this week. “… he’s always fun to hang out with. Once we recorded a song: “I drank all my medicines, it’s half past ten. We just sit and wait until something works.”

Yet this image of a long-haired hippie smoking marijuana may seem unnatural for football. But true to its Texan roots, football has also been an important part of his life, starting with playing in his hometown of Abbott in Central Texas.

“I played a lot of football for the Abbott Panthers,” Nelson said. “I had small old thin helmet on. It was like wearing a sock on your head and we were playing on a pile of rocks. So I’m surprised that I could beat the game.”

Although he never played outside of high school, Nelson ended up having a huge impact on the Texas Longhorns, becoming one of the closest friends of legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal.

Royal, a straight-laced football coach who ran a tight ship of thoroughbreds, drew a lot of eyebrows at UT because of his close friendship with Nelson, the nation’s outlaw pioneer. Yet the two were almost inseparable. Nelson played gigs for Longhorn players before the 1969, 1970 and 1971 Cotton Bowls.

They met in the 1950s when Nelson was a minor player on a lineup that was supposed to play in Austin. Royal, who grew up during the Great Depression in Oklahoma, was a dedicated fan of heartbreak songs, appreciated good lyrics, and was attracted to songwriting by Nelson. Their friendship really developed after Nelson returned to Austin in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, Nelson became one of Earl Campbell’s best friends when the legendary Heisman Trophy-winning running back starred for the Longhorns and later for the Houston Oilers.

“I followed him everywhere and we hung out a lot,” Nelson said. “He was a great player and became a good friend of mine.”

Royal was known for throwing “picnic parties” in his hotel rooms, Austin’s Villa Capri, or in his rooms on the road. Royal turned on the lamp, and everyone in the room had to sit silently and listen to the songs, otherwise he would face Royal’s wrath.

Royal and Nelson are largely beholden to making Austin a musical stronghold: Royal legitimized Nelson among the more conservative football crowd, and Nelson brought people of all types together, such as at the legendary Armadillo World headquarters in 1972.

“When I walked into Armadillo for Willie’s first show, I was stunned,” Eddie Wilson, owner of the legendary venue, told Texas Monthly. “All of our hippies were there, but the walls were covered with UT footballers.”

Royal and Nelson became a family. Nelson sang “The Healing Hands of Time” for Royal and his wife Edith after the deaths of their two children nine years apart. He visited Royal’s nursing home and sang gospel songs for him when he suffered from Alzheimer’s. When the coach died in 2013, Nelson performed “Healing Hands” once more at his funeral.

“It was all done for the coach,” Nelson said with reverence to his late friend this week.

Nelson continues to work as he nears his 90th birthday, but he often tours because he can’t stop working. Or they compete. After growing up playing every sport he could, he became a black belt in several martial arts, including becoming a fifth-degree black belt in Korean mixed martial arts.

Nelson is still a big football fan and is looking forward to Sunday’s game and his surreal commercial. But while the phrase “Willie Nelson’s Super Bowl Party” might conjure up wild images, he said he’d actually be more likely to just hang out with his wife while watching the game.

“It’s just me and Annie, sitting around and laughing a lot,” he said.

After that, he returned to it, with a milestone. He did 150 albums with the other due out in early March.

On April 29-30, he will celebrate his birthday with a party at the Hollywood Bowl with an absolutely loaded line-up including Chris Stapleton, Casey Musgraves, Neil Young, Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crow, Tom Jones, the Avette Brothers and more. .

And, of course, Snoop will be there. It will be a massive celebration with an eclectic cast of people who have brought people together for almost a century.

“I see no reason to leave,” Nelson said. “I leave after every tour. And then I go away for a while and then I say, “Okay, let’s do it again.” I’ve come out of retirement about 100 times.”


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