The Super Bowl has a special meaning this year for Miles Sanders’ Big 33 host family

Written by: Billy Splain on February 11, 2023.


This year while they’re watching the Super Bowl, Neil and Carolyn Raup will have a little extra to cheer about. Back in 2016 they were the host family for not one, but two Big 33 All-Star Football Classic players. Both from Woodland Hills, Wilford Clark and Miles Sanders. Tomorrow Sanders will line up for the Philadelphia Eagles and be a part of something special. He joins a streak unlike no other, the streak that has put at least one former Big 33 player on the field during every Super Bowl. And that will make it even more special to watch for Neil and Carolyn, who formed a long-lasting friendship with Sanders.

The Raup family built a special relationship with Sanders and his family. Over the years, Neil and Carolyn have hosted 22 players. Carolyn said, “I always made sure that I reached out to all the kids we’ve hosted once they went on to college and we even went to as many of their games as we could. We’d meet up with them after the games and such.”

It’s a special bond that host families build with their players that lasts a lifetime. One of the great aspects about hosting is getting to see a player, who may be shy at first, really open up and become part of the family. In cases like Miles, who starred at Penn State and now with the Eagles, it has been a fun ride for the Raup family, who are proud of each and every one of his successes. “I remember it was Miles’ birthday and so I reached out and talked with him. It was great to hear about his experiences and how he appreciates the messages we send and even though he can’t always respond, he reads them all.”


It’s not just the players that a host family bonds with. Because their sons are spending an entire week with what is basically a family of strangers, the player’s family also bonds with the host family.

His mom, Marlene, has kept in touch with the Raup family. “In 2016 my son Miles was selected to participate in the Big 33 All Star game. The Raup family took him in their home and treated him like family. They transported him back and forth to practice, fed him and made sure he had all his snacks.” Carolyn has also enjoyed staying in touch with Marlene. “With Miles being in the pros it’s definitely difficult to keep in touch with him. While we’re watching games, I’ll reach out to Marlene and text her things like ‘hey, that was a great touchdown.'”

“They have kept in touch with Miles and myself, always sending love and hugs each and every game since he started at Penn State and now while he’s with the Eagles. I know they are beaming with pride to see him heading to the Superbowl” said Marlene.

When it comes to being a host family, Carolyn says “I think you just have to not be afraid to try it. It’s the building of relationships and the bond that you make. We had one particular player who played for the same college our daughter attended and we still keep in touch with him. He’s married now, has kids and we get to be involved in their weddings, the birth of their kids, it’s amazing. You just have to remember these are young kids, sometimes their family lives are not the best and you as a host parent can make a difference in their lives.”

Carolyn says it’s really not that difficult to be a host family at all. It is definitely a worthwhile commitment. “If you’re a young family with kids, or even and empty nester, you will find this experience very rewarding.”


The Raups’ follow the NFL and the Eagles have been “their team for a long time,” but this year is definitely different. With Miles playing she said “It’s incredible. In fact, I said to someone the other day that I’d be ok with having a Super Bowl party or being at one, but I’m gonna park myself in front of the TV and watch that entire game. I don’t want to be distracted!”

Carolyn said there really is a special memory about hosting players like Miles, but she does remember teasing him about his shoes. “He was always aware of which shoes he wore with what outfit. He always had a smile on his face and he was fun to be around.”

If you’d like to know more about how you can be a host family, and very possibly host a player that will be in the Super Bowl some day, visit this page: Big 33 Host Family FAQ.