MINNEAPOLIS - It was a hard secret to keep, but the U of M Marching Band did it.
"This fall we started a social media campaign with the hashtag #umnmarchwithjt that gained a ton of momentum," says tuba player Owen Luterbach.
The campaign to be included in the Super Bowl 52 Halftime Show in their home city of Minneapolis caught on, but they were still surprised when it worked.
"A little over two months ago we had some contact with some of the production team," said Marching Band Instructor Skeeter Burroughs. "They indicated they wanted us to be a part of the program."
Then at the December band banquet, Luterbach and the rest of the members were asked to put their phones on the table.
"I knew it was coming," said Burroughs. "We started playing the video, I turned around to watch all their reaction."
That reaction was swift and enthusiastic - but then came the hard part.
"Starting then, everything had to be silent," said Luterbach. "We couldn't tell anyone. It was the hardest secret to keep of my entire life."
All the band and staff members had to sign nondisclosures, Burroughs said.
So instead of talking about it, they put their energy into practicing.
"We got the music right after winter break about, and then we started rehearsing here at TCF Bank Stadium," Luterbach said. "And then finally we got to go rehearse in U.S. Bank Stadium."
That's where they met the other star of the show, Justin Timberlake.
"JT is a character," Luterbach said. "He is so hardworking, so friendly to all of us. It was really cool to just see a professional at work. He is insanely talented, dancing, singing."
Burroughs said they had two groups involved, one of which viewers may not have noticed right away. "Saxophones, brass and percussion were the students in 'Suit and Tie,'" he said. "And then the flutes, clarinets and color guard were actually part of the 'Mirrors' cast. Some of our students helped lead some of the lines, and we kind of positioned them in key spots because marching band students know how to go out on the field and hit field markings and get in straight lines."
Burroughs was out on that field once before, amazingly enough. He was a freshman marching in the 1992 Super Bowl Halftime Show.
But this was definitely a first for Luterbach.
"Being in 'Suit and Tie' was incredible," he said. "Time kind of just froze."
When he got the cue to march, that's when he said it hit him.
"That's when I just looked up, I saw all of the phones, all of the lights, and it's just nuts," he said. "I kind of started crying at the end there. Just looking around me with all my best friends. Once in a lifetime opportunity for sure."