Archdeacon: A Super Bowl surprise for a proud dad

As birthday surprises go, this one was super.

David Reynolds was celebrating his 60th birthday early last December at the On Par Entertainment center in Beavercreek with his wife Kate and some of their kids when in walks their then 29-year-old son Darian.

The former Chaminade Julienne High School and Ashland University football player now lives in Manhattan and works as a production and stage manager for Diversified Production Services (DPS), which annually produces over 250 live events from concerts, music festivals and book tours to the blockbuster Super Bowl halftime and pregame shows.

Over the past few years Darian’s job has taken him all over the country and sometimes he’s rubbing elbows with the likes of Shaq, Oprah, Michael J. Fox, Michelle Obama, and Usher, who is the halftime headliner at today’s Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Since their son is always on the go, David hadn’t expected him to return to Dayton for his birthday.

“He gave me a big suitcase and when I opened it, there was another one inside it,” David said. “And inside that was another and then there was a smaller one.

“And inside that was a shirt that said something like, ‘Vegas, here we come – Super Bowl.’”

“I said, ‘Whaaat?’

“And he said, ‘Happy Birthday, Dad. You’re going with me to this year’s Super Bowl!’

“But even then, it didn’t really hit me what this all meant.”

He knows now.

Wednesday he flew to Las Vegas on the ticket his son got him and by that evening he was at Allegiant Stadium, where the halftime performers would later take the field for their second practice on the actual playing surface.

While he hoped to hang out with Darian as much as possible over the next few days, he knew his son was facing a lot of work ... and pressure.

Once again, DPS has been contracted by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation to produce the halftime, show. This is the fifth Super Bowl where Jay Z has partnered with the NFL to enliven the halftime entertainment and make it more socially and culturally reflective of our entire nation.

The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on U.S. television and the halftime show routinely pulls in even more viewers than does the game.

Last year — at Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, — the high-flying, red-clad Rihanna set the all-time record when 121 million people tuned in to watch her halftime performance.

And no one watched closer than Darian, who was in charge of all the logistics of the show. He watched anxiously as Rihanna — who it turned out was quite pregnant, a fact she had hidden from almost everyone — flew above the crowd on a LED-lighted platform that eventually was lowered to the stage.

“That show presented a lot of operational and logistical challenges and there was also the safety challenge,” Darian said.

The year before, the halftime show at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles — where the L.A. Rams edged Cincinnati, 23-20 — featured Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar.

It was the first time hip hop was ever featured at the Super Bowl and besides a full marquee of legendary entertainers, there were numerous oversized stage pieces that had to be moved around quickly.

The halftime show won an Emmy, another Super Bowl first.

When we talked the other morning at his Oregon District home, David took out his phone and pulled up a photo of Darian holding the Emmy.

Then he found another photo of Darian standing alongside Usher. They have worked together two other times in the past and now they both would be playing key roles in the success of this year’s Super Bowl halftime.

And the pregame entertainers Darian will be assisting today include Reba McIntyre, who’ll sing the national anthem; Post Malone, who’ll do God Bless America; and Andra Day, who’ll do Lift Every Voice and Sing, which is considered the black national anthem.

And David was going to be there to take it all in.

“Really, I’m overwhelmed,” he said, his voice suddenly wavering with emotion. “This is a once in a lifetime experience!

“Kate and I were just talking about all this yesterday.

“We were like ‘Can you believe this? This is our son!’”

‘On Jay-Z’s radar’

“I know my dad is so excited,” Darian said from Las Vegas, where he’s been since Jan. 10 preparing for the show. “I’m happy to do something for him. He’s done so much for me.

“When I was a kid, he was Dad to me, but he was Coach Reynolds, too. That’s how everyone else knew him. He’s the one who got me into sports. He coached a lot of my youth teams, whether it was track, football, basketball, or even baseball. He even coached some of my high school teams.”

He said his mom, Kate, who teaches autistic children at St. Albert’s Elementary in Kettering, had a lot to do with him doing well in his academics:

“But she was an athlete, too. She played soccer at Saint Mary’s College, right across the street from Notre Dame.”

Darian learned his parents’ lessons well.

At CJ, he was on the academic honor roll for 14 consecutive quarters. He won first team All-Greater Catholic League honors as a wide receiver his junior and senior seasons. He finished his CJ career with 995 receiving yards on 74 catches and scored 9 touchdowns. He also ran for 153 yards.

A long jumper and sprinter, he twice qualified for the state track meet.

At Ashland he dealt with injuries, but again won all conference honors for his academics and, as a sports management major, he did an internship with the Houston Rockets.

A few months after he graduated, he landed a job at the Barclays Center in in Brooklyn, which is the home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets. Eventually, he became the events manager at the arena and worked everything from concerts to boxing matches and wrestling shows.

“Beyonce’ was going to do something there and Darian ended up on a conference call with Jay Z (Beyonce’s husband) and some other people,” David said. “Jay Z was talking about the things they needed, and I guess Darian said something like, ‘Well, we can’t do it that way.’

“One of his bosses was trying to get him to be quiet, but then the kid came up with a great solution that worked even better.

“And that point, he was on Jay Z’s radar. He was impressed.”

Eventually DPS hired Darian away from the Barclays Center. Soon after that Jay Z and the NFL announced their partnership and DPS — under Jay-Z’s Roc Nation umbrella — was put in charge of the Super Bowl halftime production.

‘FaceTiming with Oprah’

“Darian was home a while back and he was on a video call and the person he was talking to sounded familiar,” David said. “I said, ‘Darian, who is that? I recognize that voice.’

“He kept trying to shoosh me and I bothered him again and finally he told the person, ‘Would you say Hi to my dad? He keeps bothering me.’

“And boom! There I was FaceTiming with Oprah!

“She said ‘Hi, it’s Oprah. It’s nice to meet you Mr. Reynolds.’

“And she said, ‘Don’t you worry about Darian. He’s a good kid. I got him. Anything he needs, I got it. You raised a good kid.”

Darian toured with Oprah to a dozen cities around the country as part of her 2020 Vision Tour, which featured a healthy living show that sold out every arena.

“I worked directly with her, day in and day out, and she is incredible,” Darian said. “She’s very, very professional, but she’s also very caring to the staff and crew. "

He mentioned other people he’s enjoyed working with, including Anderson .Paak and especially Usher:

“While I’m not working directly with him on this show, I’m around him enough to witness how well he treats the staff and the crew, as well.

“I’ve worked with him before and he’s fantastic. He’s super energetic, down to earth, and he’s on time for rehearsal. He’s very much a ‘Let’s get it done’ team player. You appreciate people like that.”

After hearing these stories second hand, David said the other day that he couldn’t wait to join his son in Las Vegas:

“When I’m by his side out there, I might hear some folks say, ‘Well, I finally get to meet your dad.’

“And as they’re telling me about him, I’m just going to sit back feeling proud and let him have his light.

“But inside I’m going to be saying, ‘This is my son!’”

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