<
>

Eagles send family of Carson Wentz's buddy the Dutch Destroyer to Super Bowl

play
SC Featured: 'The Dutch Destroyer' (10:44)

Tom Rinaldi explores the special connection between a 10-year-old football player, nicknamed "The Dutch Destroyer," and Eagles QB Carson Wentz. (10:44)

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- The phone call came on Tuesday, at just the right moment.

Rebecca Burmeff was preparing to return to work for the first time since leaving work to take her son, Lukas Kusters, to the hospital for an emergency X-ray in the spring of 2016. She was going through her laptop bag, which she had barely touched in all the days since, and found a pamphlet from a football camp she was going to send Lukas to and information about a field trip that her husband, Rich, was going to accompany him on before Lukas was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was a disease that would take his life in June of 2017, just four days after his 10th birthday.

She also pulled out discharge papers from the hospital after Lukas' intitial extended stay there following a round of chemotherapy and radiation they hoped had left him cancer free. The nurses had written, "Congratulations on going home."

"I was just mentally, emotionally, in a bad spot that specific night," Rebecca said. "But a few minutes later, I got a call from Julie [from the Philadelphia Eagles] and she said, 'We've got some great news. We've been thinking about you guys a lot, and we've got six tickets to the Super Bowl for you, and we want you guys here. We wish Lukas could be here with us, but we want you guys out here with us.' I was pretty floored by it. It was quite a shock."

A special connection between Lukas and quarterback Carson Wentz has led to a bond between his family and the Eagles organization. Known as the Dutch Destroyer for his ferocity of spirit and style of play on the football field, Lukas -- the biggest of Eagles fans -- used Wentz's hope for inspiration as he took on what doctors immediately described as the fight of his life. Hearing about Lukas from one of his radiation technicians, Wentz sent him a video of encouragement while he was in the hospital. Lukas' Make-A-Wish was to thank Wentz for that gesture. The two spent a day together at the Eagles' practice facility, and that's when Lukas gave Wentz a "Dutch Destroyer" bracelet that Wentz wears every day, even during games.

"Why would I take it off?" Wentz said recently. "The impact that Lukas has had on this team, on me, people all over. I’ll run into fans that aren’t even Eagles fans, but they would come up to me and want to talk about the Dutch Destroyer."

Since Lukas' death, the family has shipped about 65,000 bracelets and raised about $300,000 for the Live Like Lukas foundation, which helps those impacted by childhood cancer. Rebecca has been flooded with letters from people affected by their story, including over 100 alone from a fifth-grade class at Garden Lakes Elementary in Arizona, after their teacher introduced the story of Lukas, his family and Wentz to them as part of a curriculum about heroes. In Muenster, Texas, a youth team dedicated its season to Lukas, with the name Dutch Destroyer on the back of their jerseys where the individual names usually go.

Lukas' story has reached people across the country and beyond, and has become part of the fabric of the Eagles' 2017 season.

"[The Eagles] just rallied around us since all of this really started, they really haven't stopped rallying around us, and they've just made us feel like family," Rebecca said. "It makes me feel like they're feeling what we do ... like Lukas has been there with them this whole season and that he's very well at least a piece of what's so special about this season. It just means the world for us to be here."

On Thursday, two days after being notified of the Super Bowl tickets, they rented a Suburban, packed the whole family and their luggage into the car and drove 19 hours from Philadelphia to Minneapolis. Rebecca drove the first nine hours before Rich took over.

"I said, you get us up to Week 13 like Carson did, and I'll come in like [Nick] Foles and finish the job," Rich said.

Before they left, they visited the cemetery where Lukas is buried. They brought a framed picture of him on the ride.

Rebecca says she talks to Wentz every couple of weeks and believes he had a part in getting them the six Super Bowl tickets to Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

"From what I understand, he played a big role in making this happen," she said.

Standing in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, Rich pointed to the sign above the Super Bowl apparel shop. When most look at the "LII", they see the Roman numerals representing Super Bowl 52. Rich sees an "L" for Lukas, and an "11" for Wentz, another sign that this is a team of destiny.

"I was just sitting there watching TV, and I saw Super Bowl LII," Rich said of the first time he made that connection. "Bec was in the bedroom, and I just came on in and I said, 'Bec, we're going to win this.' And she said, 'I already know that.' And I said, 'No, we're really going to win this.' I said, 'Look at this.' She said, 'Oh my goodness' and she got the chills. She knew [the Eagles were going to win] before I even had to show her, but that's how I recognized it."