This weekend, 120 lucky winners are on their way to San Diego, California to win the ultimate prize of three million dollars in a one week fantasy football contest.
One of those winners that will be in California is one of the most remarkable Steelers fans I have ever had the pleasure to know, a woman by the name of Doni Meyer.
To earn the opportunity, Doni had to place in first in one of the major FanDuel contests throughout the 2015 NFL season. Doing so was not easy as her selected roster had to outperform those of thousands of fantasy football players. Fortunately, Meyer relied on her guts as a Steelers fan and picked as many players from the Steelers as she could on the week of the Steelers 2015 home opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Pittsburgh would put up 43 points that weekend, with DeAngelo Williams rushing for three touchdowns and Antonio Brown put up 195 yards with a touchdown while Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns. It was a big performance all around, and it paid Doni Meyer two-fold as both a fun win to watch and a good bit of cash along with an opportunity to win a great deal more.
Some Steelers fans, like me, were born into a world that already had seen the franchise earn its glorious reputation of winning multiple Super Bowls. Other Steelers fans had the blessing of being like Doni and being able to see the maturation of the Steelers greatness from before the Chuck Noll era to now.
Doni is a 61-year-old nurse practitioner who lives in Winchester, Virginia with her husband of 34 years, John. Doni grew up in Westover, Pennsylvania as the daughter of a hard working coal miner who taught her to love the game of football at an early age. By the time she was eight years old, Doni was well-versed in football and was a knowledgeable young fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers thanks to her close relationship with her father.
Over the years of being a Steelers fan, Doni and her father would be sure to talk in person or on the phone after each Steelers' game. It became a tradition that they would keep up until her father would lose his hearing in his later years. They were able to enjoy watching the Steelers win four Super Bowls in the 1970's and keep in touch as Doni married and began to raise her own two boys to be fans of the black and gold.
In her father's last years, he sent a letter to Doni expressing that he missed their post-game talks. The two were able to see the Steelers win their fifth Super Bowl together when the Steelers would beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, a time that Doni remembers fondly as she shared another victory with her father, a time that she would cherish forever. Sadly, that was the last Steelers game the two would get to enjoy together as Doni's father would pass away that Summer.
Doni would tell you that her father had the biggest influence over her life and their bond showed her how a simple appreciation of a game can be part of so much more in relationships.
"I think that sometimes that people forget in our busy lives, that sharing something as simple as watching your team on TV with somebody you love, those memories will last forever," Doni said. "They cost you nothing except the time you choose to share with them."
Doni takes that lesson and has applied it to many facets of her life. As a nurse practitioner, she often finds the families of several of the children she nurses to be Steelers fans in Virginia and often can use football as a means of helping calm the family of a patient in times that are often the most stressful for families.
She also has raised two young men who served in the United States' armed forces. Both of whom have traveled the world serving their country, but they did not just take their pride as countrymen with them, they would take their fandom of the Steelers. Every so often, Doni's boys would write home about where they were and explain how they had found bunches of Steelers fans to befriend wherever they were located. They would ask for Terrible Towels and Doni would ship them to wherever they were so that Steelers fans across the world could also wield the most iconic sports item in the NFL.
Doni's favorite moment as a Steelers fan was the 2010 AFC Championship game, not because the Steelers would go to the Super Bowl for an eight appearance, but because that was the first time she could ever go to a Steelers game. She missed the opportunity to go to Three Rivers Stadium, but she found a way to get to Heinz Field for the Steelers' AFC Championship victory against the New York Jets. Accompanying her was her friend and her friend's eight year old son, both of whom experienced their first live Steelers game as well.
She describes the game as her "pinnacle moment" as a Steelers fan, as she loved being at Heinz Field and watching a young fan look on in awe of the football game despite it feeling like -8 degrees.
Now Doni gets a chance for another pinnacle moment this weekend when she competes to win $3 million if she comes out on top again. She already will receive $20,000 as a participant for her prize of winning their earlier contest, so she already considers herself a winner.
However should she win, she already knows what she wants to do with the winnings.
"I would be sure to pay off the student debt of my nieces and nephews so they could start living their lives," Doni explains. "I would also donate a significant amount to St. Jude's." Doni sees that as her favorite charity with all the amazing work St. Jude's does with children.
Doni would not reveal her full roster for the upcoming game, but she would say that she's going to stick with her fandom of the Steelers with her picks and pick as many as she can for her roster; she picks with her heart.
The week when she won her first contest was only her second time ever playing fantasy football and it surprised everyone in her neighborhood when they would learn that this sweet 61-year-old nurse was a grand prize winner of such a major contest.
Doni says that the experience of winning has been very exciting for everyone around her, and that she already considers herself a winner just for being able to go to San Diego, where she will wear the only Steelers jersey she ever wears, her Terry Bradshaw jersey.
You can learn more about Doni by watching the embedded video below.
And you can also learn more about the FanDuel World Championships that she will be at this weekend by clicking here.