EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 29, 2013

What a gift

Family of Pats fans get a post-Christmas surprise

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — They're from a line of fervent Patriots fans, those young ones.

And by Dec. 26, Jake Santos, 4, and his younger twin siblings Alana and Zachary, 1, thought Christmas was over, until FedEx delivered a package at their Washington Street home.

Inside were three glossy photographs of Jake's favorite player, five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Each one was autographed and addressed to one of the three children.

The photos arrived after a nearly month-long Twitter campaign by the kids' mother, Louann Santos. "I said it was Jake's Christmas wish to get a signed photograph," Santos said. "I tweeted it every day." The tweets were picked up and retweeted by Boston sports writers and radio personalities and by Wilfork's cousin.

Jake, who wants to play football when he gets older, calls Wilfork "Big Vince." Listed at 325 pounds and 6 feet 2 inches tall, it isn't hard to understand why. But Jake still helped to clarify: "Because he stops all the bad guys with his big tummy."

The Santoses, particularly Louann, are the quintessential "No. 1 fans." Their home is stuffed with Patriots blankets and jerseys and clothing. Football pictures hang on the walls. Two Super Bowl plates stand in a cabinet, behind a Santa Claus in a blue Patriots coat.

Louann, 36, and Greg, 34, were engaged at Gillette Stadium. They won trips to Super Bowl XLII in New Orleans, when the Patriots lost to the New York Giants, from The Ellen DeGeneres Show during a "No. 1 Fan" contest in 2008. That trip supplanted the football-themed honeymoon they had planned to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Louann Santos competed in a human bowling contest against a Giants fan on DeGeneres' daytime TV show, but both fans won trips to New Orleans and tickets to the game. "We had seats, but we spent most of the time on the sidelines," Louann said. They hugged Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

She still keeps in touch with the Giants fan.

Zachary's first crawl ever was on the grass at Gillette Stadium on Father's Day last June during a Field Day with Dad event.

Louann Santos has an autographed photo of former linebacker Teddy Bruschi, whom she met during a karaoke charity event in Boston in 2010, that Greg gave her for an anniversary gift. She also has a photographs of that karaoke night, where she sang "Summertime," by Will Smith with Bruschi.

She comes by it honestly. Her father, Louis Ouellette, 67, is a lifelong fan of all the Boston teams, sticking with the Patriots, the Red Sox, the Bruins and the Celtics even through the awful years in true New England fashion. "He's the typical Boston fan. When they're losing they suck. When they're winning, they're the best ever," Greg Santos said.

An only child, Louann Santos absorbed all her father's passion. Now with a family of her own, she wants to pass it on her children. Hence the Twitter campaign. "My goal is to have it in their lives as much as it has been in ours," she said.

Jake said he wanted to hang the photograph, now framed, in his room along with his other heroes, such as SpongeBob SquarePants.

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