MORRO BAY, Calif. -- Each year, thousands of Central Coast residents, like millions of others around the world, watch the Super Bowl on television.
For Morro Bay resident Bear Pascoe, the big game will always mean something a little bit more.
Nine years ago, Pascoe played in Super Bowl XLVI as a member of the New York Giants.
"I can't believe it's been that long ago," said Pascoe. "It was a dream come and it's something I dreamed about ever since I was a little kid, ever since I was out on the playground, last minutes of game, catching the winning touchdown and stuff, to actually go on, make it to the NFL and to get to play in an actual Super Bowl, it was an amazing experience and very much a dream true."
Pascoe grew up in Porterville, but has lived the past years in Morro Bay, the hometown of his wife Katie Pascoe.
An All-Western Athletic Conference tight end at Fresno State, Pascoe was drafted in th 6th round of the 2009 draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
After being cut the 49ers, he caught on with the Giants, where he spent five seasons of his seven seasons in the NFL.
"Overall, I really hold those five years in New York as the best part of my career," said Pascoe. "We weren't in the playoffs every year, but the New York organization and that coaching staff that was there those five years, that was what made it special."
The high point of his career was undoubtedly the 2011 season. Despite the Giants having a regular season of just 9-7, New York would cap a remarkable late season run by upsetting the favored New England Patriots 21-17.
"It was pretty neat," said Pascoe. "They were a dynasty. They were an outstanding and well-coached team and they had a lot of good athletes on that team. On paper, going into it, they probably had more weapons on offense than we did, but I just really felt going into that game, that Giants team was special. We came together there towards the end of the season and were pulling for each other. That team had a special bond."
Pascoe not only played in the game, he was unexpectedly thrust into a vital role with the game on the line.
With tight ends Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum both out with injuries, Pascoe, who was used more in blocking role, took over the duties, catching four passes for 33 yards.
"The last half of the fourth quarter, I was the last tight end standing, so that was kind of special to see the coaches put their trust in me, and that type of situation, to keep our offense rolling the way it was, so that was pretty neat," said Pascoe.
Thanks in part to Pascoe, the Giants erased a 17-9 deficit and would rally back to win the game on a last minute touchdown.
"When the final second clicks off the clock, and confetti is coming down, and you're celebrating with teammates, and waving at fans and your family in the stands, you really feel at that moment that you've made it," said Pascoe. "It's something else and is really hard to explain, but it's a lot of fun."
During a conversation at his Morro Bay home just days before Super Bowl LV, Pascoe recalled what it was like to actually be part of such a big event.
"You try and tell yourself going into it that it's just another game, don't build it up more than it needs to be, but it's pretty special," said Pascoe. "When you're sitting on that sideline and that opening kickoff and all those cameras go off and the lights start flashing, it's pretty special, and at that moment, you kind of really appreciate what it took to get there, everything that your team went through, ups and downs, and at that moment, it's pretty special."
He added that simply being there and part of it was the culmination of lifelong dream.
"It really didn't hit me that we were playing in the Super Bowl until about three hours before the game when I was out on the field, just walking around," said Pascoe. "It was actually quiet. They hadn't let all the fans in yet, and I was on the 50 yard line kind of looking around, and I was like, oh my gosh! We're playing in the Super Bowl!"
Later, right before kickoff, the magnitude of the moment became even clearer.
"You run out of the tunnel," said Pascoe. "We came out as a team, you're kind of looking around, and it's packed, and everybody is just screaming, and cameras are going off and lights are flashing. It was something else. It was an awesome experience."
A week earlier, Pascoe played a key role in helping the Giants earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
Playing in the NFC Championship in San Francisco, Pascoe caught his first career touchdown pass in the Giants 20-17 overtime victory over the 49ers.
"That was pretty cool," said Pascoe. "My whole family was there and got to celebrate with them after the game and that was pretty special. I kind of had a chip on my shoulder going back into Candlestick that year. We all wanted to win that game, but it meant a little something for me. To get my first career touchdown out of it, that was pretty special."
Pascoe spent two more years with the Giants. Afterwards, he had stops in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and New England.
During his short time with the Patriots, Pascoe had a conversation with Tom Brady he'll never forget.
"I remember sitting on the field talking with Tom about it (Super Bowl XLVI," said Pascoe. "He asked, how many catches did you have in that game? I said I only had four catches for three first downs and so many yards, and he said, oh my gosh, we were not expecting that!"
In early 2017, Pascoe officially decided to retire from professional football and move into the phase of his life.
"Lot of positives," said Pascoe. "Very blessed. Got to play a lot longer than some thought I would have. Got a Super Bowl out of it and accomplished all the dreams I wanted to accomplish in that career and can't stay enough that I was truly blessed. God smiled upon me and I don't take that for granted. Got to meet some amazing people and make some amazing friendships and nothing but positives."
Immediately upon retiring, he made Morro Bay his fulltime home with Katie and turned his attention to competing in professional rodeo.
"I just dove into it," said Pascoe. "I tried to just keep going with it, as learn much as I could, with steer wrestling and pro rodeo and stuff, and just trying to get that whole career going."
Right out of the gate, he was a bit hit, winning the steer wrestling competition at 2017 Santa Barbara Fiesta Rodeo in his debut.
He added the taking part in rodeo keeps his competitive fire going, similar to his time on the gridiron.
"It really does," said Pascoe. "To go make a good run in steer wrestling, and really put the hammer on one, it gets my adrenaline going just like it did when I was playing football. I get excited. I start high-fiving and wanting to head butt everybody in the box, and they're like, hey stop, knock that off, you're not playing football anymore, but it's very comparable though, from catching a pass in the NFL, to going to throwing a steer, it gets me going. It's fun. I enjoy it."
While he's still learning the trade of steer wrestling, COVID-19 has severely affected the rodeo circuit.
"It's been a lot slower here later," said Pascoe. Covid has put a damper on a lot of the rodeos, especially here in California, a lot have been cancelled or postponed. It's been kind of pain in the butt not having the rodeos to go to, but we have a lot of other things to keep us busy and to keep us focused.
Pascoe now spends his days plenty busy on Katie's family ranch in Morro Bay, which has been in her family for decades.
"It's great," said Pascoe. ""We have a lot to do on the ranch. We get up and take care of our animals and make sure they're feeling good and happy. We're plenty busy. We grow our own hay, or feeding cows, or riding and training horses."
He also spends some of his time helping coach the San Luis Obispo High School varsity football team.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Pascoe. "I had to catch myself a little bit on the terminology I was using. Kind of had to simple it and just make it as easy as possible to understand. I really enjoy it and have a lot of fun with that because we got a great group of kids there."
When he's not at the ranch, competing in rodeo or coaching football, Pascoe also works as a personal trainer. He's likely more busy now than when he was playing in the NFL.
He also loves that he's living life on the Central Coast. While it may be far from the bright lights of New York and professional football, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's a lot slower and that's nice because I grew up in the Western lifestyle, so to be able to return to it and live it every single day, it's a blessing," said Pascoe. "We couldn't live in a nicer spot here on the Central Coast. I couldn't be more blessed right now. I have a lot of people to thank for that, starting with the man upstairs. He's definitely smiled upon me. I've been blessed by him, no doubt."