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Mom goes marching in
Son to play for Saints
Reis mama 4
New Orleans Saints items, like this tiny uniform, decorate Stephanie Reis' classroom. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Super Bowl XLIV

• New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts

• Live from Miami’s Sun Life Stadium; kickoff 6:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS

• Halftime performance by The Who
Cumming Elementary teacher Stephanie Reis has big plans for Super Bowl Sunday. She’ll be at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

Her son, Cumming resident Chris Reis, has even bigger plans. He’ll be on the field as a member of the NFC Champion New Orleans Saints.

“He’s very blessed to have been in the right place at the right time,” Stephanie Reis said of her son, who wears No. 39.

While Super Bowl XLIV is the culmination of a remarkable season for the Saints and their players, the mother isn’t surprised at her son’s success.

“Chris works really hard,” she said, noting the 12-hour days of game preparation and complexity of professional football takes a special kind of person.

The Saints have drawn a lot of support at Cumming Elementary, where Stephanie Reis has taught English as a Second Language for 13 years.

She returned from the NFC Championship game last month in New Orleans to find a banner in her classroom reading “Mama’s goin’ to the Super Bowl.”

There also have been many cards and e-mails of support, as well as classroom decorations.

“There’s women here that have never watched a game in their lives and they’re excited and supporting me and Chris, and I think that’s awesome,” she said.

Sunday’s matchup with the Indianapolis Colts is the fulfillment of a dream for both Chris Reis and the Saints, for whom the free safety has played the last three years.

Raised in Roswell, Chris Reis started playing football in the third grade because his older brother and friends did. It wasn’t until high school that the prospect of making it big crept into his mind.

“You always want to play at the highest level possible,” he said by phone Tuesday night from Miami. “That has been my dream ... to play at the most pinnacle point in the NFL, and that’s the Super Bowl. “

A Georgia Tech alumnus, he played four years for the Yellow Jackets, before getting a shot with the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. He signed the next season with the Saints, where he has latched on as a key special teams player.

He said earning a Super Bowl berth has brought much cheer to New Orleans, which hasn’t fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He feels “humbled” to represent the city.

He knew the Saints had great fans, but said he didn’t “really understand how much it meant to them.”

His mother also marveled at how New Orleans has supported its football team. Stephanie Reis got to attend four or five games this season, including the NFC Championship, becoming a vocal part of the “Who Dat Nation.”

She said the Saints are a “special group” of guys. In a city that has had more than its share of hardships, the players are known for their volunteer work.

Chris Reis said there’s “still a lot of need” in New Orleans.

“I don’t think people realize how great a need there is,” he said.

In the offseason, Chris Reis and wife Michelle have made their permanent home in Cumming, where they plan to raise a family.

“We wanted to put down some roots somewhere,” he said. “In the NFL, you never know where you’re going to be. You could be cut from a team tomorrow and be across the nation with another team.”

Sunday, however, he will be in Miami, with the eyes of his family and millions of viewers worldwide looking on.

“You can’t get a bigger stage than the Super Bowl,” Chris Reis said. “It is a dream come true in many aspects.”