What Is the Big 33 Football Classic?
Originating in 1957, the Big 33 Football Classic is one of the nation’s finest scholastic All-Star Football Games, currently showcasing Pennsylvania and Maryland’s premier football players. Now into its sixth decade, the Football Classic is often described as “The Super Bowl of High School Football.” It is a game rich in both history and tradition. Many Big 33 Football Classic players and cheerleaders propel to college careers and so many players have successful careers in the NFL. There has never been a Super Bowl played without a former Big 33 player on the roster. We are proud to continue a long tradition of 57 straight Super Bowls with former participants of the Big 33 Football Classic. Some of our most well-known alums include: Matt Millen, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, John Cappelletti, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Rocket Ismail, Kerry Collins, Kyle Brady, Orlando Pace, Antonio Freeman, Ed McCaffrey, Marvin Harrison, Curtis Martin, Ricky Watters, Ben Roethlisberger, Robbie Gould, Damar Hamlin and Miles Sanders. More than 140 former Big 33 players have played in a Super Bowl. No other all-star game can make that claim!
The annual Big 33 Football Classic event brings both substantial economic and social impact to our Commonwealth. Each year, Pennsylvania and Maryland square off in “The Super Bowl of High School Football.” In addition to the All-Star game, the Big 33 weekend also consists of a Welcome Picnic, Pep Rally, Recognition Ceremony, Youth Cheer and Football clinics, Military Recognition, Fan Experience and several activities for individuals with special needs and diverse backgrounds.
The Memorial Day weekend Big 33 Football Classic game is televised live in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and viewed on National programming Streams. In addition to the television broadcast and live streams, game attendance for the Football Classic is approximately 10,000 families and spectators traveling to Central PA for weekend festivities. All of this significantly boosts the local economy and support for businesses in surrounding communities.
More Than Just A Game!
But the Big 33 experience extends beyond the game. It provides opportunities for the entire community with a major focus on our youth. In addition to the football players, coaches and support staff, we also have All-Star Cheerleaders, Big 33 Buddy Teams, Big 33 Host Families, and Big 33 Youth Clinics, plus great opportunities for our sponsors.
Over 100 cheerleaders from all over the states of PA and MD try out for the opportunity to be part of the Big 33 Cheer Team. Tryouts are held in January and the team is selected in February. Cheerleaders start practicing in April to prepare for their exceptional half-time routine. Cheerleaders participate with the Big 33 Cheer Buddy Program and also run the Youth Cheer Clinic. Like all our Big 33 athletes, the strength, agility, and talent of our Big 33 Cheerleaders is second to none.
Big 33 Buddy Teams
Perhaps the greatest part of the Big 33 experience is the Buddy Program. The Big 33 Buddy Program is an inclusive program, which pairs individuals with special needs with Big 33 Players and Cheerleaders. We have special Buddy events during Memorial Day weekend for players and cheerleaders to form lasting friendships and create lifelong memories with their Big 33 Buddies. In addition, our Cheer Buddy Team has the opportunity to perform part of the halftime routine with the Big 33 Cheerleaders; and the Player Buddies are introduced on the field with their players for the Pre-Game Introductions. While the Big 33 Football Classic is the pinnacle event for the Buddy Teams, it does not stop there. Our goal is to have four events throughout the year for the Big 33 Buddy Teams: October – Mini Golf Buddy Event; January – Buddy Bowling; March – Buddy Gala; May – Big 33 Football Classic.
Another unique part of the Big 33 experience is the Host Family Program, where the players, and some of the cheerleaders, spend their time in Central PA living with local families. Every year, Host Families open their homes and hearts to welcome their Big 33 players. Host Families “adopt” their player(s) for Memorial Day Weekend and make sure the players are at practices on time, are fed well, and they show them around the community and share local venues with them. Many Host Families follow their player(s) during their college and professional careers. Players consider staying with a host family their “home away from home” and consider them a second family.
Opportunities are available for local youth to attend Big 33 Youth Cheer and Football Clinics. The Cheer Clinic is organized and run by the Big 33 Cheer Team/Coaches and the Football Clinic is organized and run by a Big 33 partner, Ron Johnson (Rising Stars Football Academy). In 2023 there were over 150 youth in attendance for these Clinics. Youth who attend are also invited to attend the Big 33 Football Classic and are recognized during the game.