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Wounded Warriors, NFL alumni mix it up for good cause

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At halftime of the Game of Honor, a pushup contest broke out on the Shadow Mountain High School football field between a member of the Wounded Warriors and player from the NFL Alumni of Arizona team.

The soldier, a veteran with one arm, crushed his competition. The game was a blowout, too: Wounded Warriors 58, NFL 21. But this was a night in which nobody went home a loser during Super Bowl Week.

“For anybody that feels sorry for themselves in their situation, if they spend five seconds out here, they have a different perspective seeing these guys compete and play,’’ said Andrew Walter, former Arizona State quarterback. “It’s awesome. I’m thrilled to be a part of it,”

Walter was part of the Arizona alumni team that included ASU football greats Jake Plummer and Todd Heap, among others. Former ASU Coach Frank Kush was on the sidelines.

Several celebrities and dignitaries from all over the country watched along with 5,000 fans, including Kenny Mayne of ESPN, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Snoop Dogg.

This was the ninth year the event has taken place as part of Super Bowl Week. The Wounded Warriors have never lost.

The competitive nature and confidence of the Wounded Warriors was on full display even before the start of the game.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait to stomp these able bodies,’’ said Ben Lunak, an amputee. “You have no idea the hurt we’re about to put on him.”

He backed his bravado up.

“I had an absolute blast out here,” said Navy Corpsman Joe Worley, one of 20 veterans who played in the game.

“I think this is just one of the coolest things that we can do to spread awareness for wounded veterans and do it in a way that everyone enjoys and nobody is just having to sit there and listen to people talk for the whole time.”

For fans young and old, the game represents an opportunity to see their favorite former stars and thank veterans for their service.

“It’s a blessing to have all these people out here that fall for us,’’ said Claude Gooch, a member of the Shadow Mountain football team. “I feel honored.

“These kids need to go through this and see what an honor it is to see that people who fought for us come back out here and play a game that they love.”

All proceeds went toward helping wounded veterans in Arizona.

Correction: Ben Lunak’s name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.