You most definitely don’t know the name, James DiGiacomo.
But if you have any interest in the National Football League, even as a casual, cursory, Super Bowl party-only fan, you know who James is.
In fact, he probably made you laugh.
Well, DiGiacomo made us laugh again this week.
When news broke out of 1 Patriot Place in Foxborough that Cam Newton was released by the New England Patriots on Tuesday morning, thus elevating rookie Mac Jones to the starting quarterback, almost instantly James DiGiacomo was back in our sights.
James was that 7-year-old boy with Newton in the “NFL Play 60” commercial that was created in the summer of 2012 for Super Bowl XLVII when the Ravens beat the 49ers.
“I woke up and had some posts in my Instagram (account) about the commercial,” said DiGiacomo, entering his junior year at Rockland High, a suburb about 30 miles north of Manhattan. “I didn’t know what had happened, but I figured something happened with Cam.”
The skit everyone remembers
The commercial starts out with James, as “Nate,” thanking Cam for coming to his school to promote health and fitness.
Then slowly and methodically — and humorously — “Nate” goes for Cam’s jugular.
Nate: “I promise to exercise and eat right.”
Cam: “Don’t forget 60 minutes of play a day, right?”
Nate: “And grow up big and strong, like you?”
Nate: “And play in the NFL?”
Cam: “Yes, sir.”
Nate: “And be drafted Number One?”
Nate: “Become starting quarterback of the Panthers?”
Nate: “You can be my backup?”
Cam: “Excuse me.”
Nate: “And make Panthers fans forget about you?”
Nate: “And become your mom’s favorite player?”
Nate: (starts his right arm like a windmill) “I’m just loosening my arm.”
The commercial ends with the words, “Get active. Dream big.”
Nine years after the commercial was made, 16-year-old James DiGiacomo still smiles when it is brought up.
And it was brought up a lot this week when Cam was replaced by Mac Jones was Patriots starting quarterback.
“Nate” represents Jones, finally growing up and, as promised, beating out the great Newton.
“I honestly think it’s awesome that people still bring it up,” said DiGiacomo, who has been acting in commercials, bit roles in TV shows as well a regular role as the son in “Kevin Can Wait,” starring Kevin James, and a recurring part in Disney’s “K.C. Undercover.”
“I’ve done a lot of commercials over the years and did some TV work,” he said. “But that commercial with Cam is definitely a highlight. I didn’t realize how big it would be when we made it. But it was really cool. I’m very proud of it.”
This not the first time DiGiacomo’s commercial was rebooted due to Newton being placed as a starter. Back in 2019, when Newton was with the Panthers, Kyle Allen was officially named the starter and Newton’s season controversially ended when he was put on the injured reserve.
“It was very similar and the fact that it was in Carolina with the Panthers made it relevant,” said DiGiacomo. “I got calls from the Carolina media for a story. I pretty much figured that was it with me and Cam (in the limelight).”
Making the commercial
DiGiacomo, who started acting at age 3, has fond memories of the auditioning and making of the commercial with Newton.
“My family got an email from my manager about this spot with Cam Newton,” recalled DiGiacomo. “Usually, for spots as important as this one, you usually get something sent to you to read and practice. I remembered doing the reading for it with a bunch of other kids.”
A week later the call came for another audition.
“There were only a few kids so I realized it was getting serious,” said DiGiacomo. “The thing is we were a big football family. My dad was a big Green Bay Packers fan, which means we all became Packers fans and love the NFL. This was a big deal.”
DiGiacomo got the gig, which meant his day with Newton.
“It’s funny the way they shot it,” recalled DiGiacomo. “Cam’s scenes were shot in front of the stadium. Mine were shot separately at the park nearby. Cam came to park when my scenes were shot, doing the readings (off camera).”
DiGiacomo recalled Newton was nice, but they didn’t do a lot of interacting off camera.
“What does he care about some little kid?” said DiGiacomo. “We took a photo together and that was it.”
Well, almost. The commercial was a huge hit, running multiple times.
Not long after, DiGiacomo’s and Newton’s representatives were called by ESPN bosses. They actually wanted DiGiacomo and Newton to appear together at “The ESPYs,” ESPN’s annual awards show.
“We couldn’t believe it. It was an amazing opportunity,” recalled DiGiacomo. “But Cam apparently didn’t want to do it. He ended up sending me a bag of some signed stuff, apologizing. It was cool.”
Daily reminder of commercial
If DiGiacomo wanted to forget about that commercial, it’s pretty much impossible. Every time he steps in his bedroom there’s a framed picture of he and Newton from that day about nine years ago.
There is also a signed Newton Panthers’ jersey, which was part of the “swag” Newton sent him after deciding not to do The ESPYs gig.
“I’ve done 35 commercials and some of them have been pretty memorable, especially the sitcom with Kevin James,” said DiGiacomo, who said that his acting auditions slowed down over the last 18 months due to COVID-19 but should continue in the next few months.
“But I will always have a special place for this commercial with Cam. Always. I saw where some Patriots fans thought that might have been Mac Jones in that commercial. But it wasn’t. It really was me.”
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choosing acting over sports
James DiGiacomo loves sports, especially baseball.
But after five straight years playing locally, his acting schedule, which included bi-monthly trips to Los Angeles, got in the way of practices and games with his town team.
“I love baseball,” said DiGiacomo, now 16. “But it came down to choosing between baseball and acting. I saw acting in my future so it wasn’t too hard of a choice, but I didn’t want to give up baseball.”
DiGiacomo, who was co-star in the NFL Play 60 commercial with Cam Newton in 2012, said winning an audition for an Amazon Fire Plus tablet, beating out 500 boys, made him realize he had the talent to perform.
“Hopefully, we get through the pandemic and more auditions open up,” he said. “I really love acting, especially comedy. It’s in my blood.”