Wrongly imprisoned man given Super Bowl tickets

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A Missouri man who spent a good chunk of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit is now realizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the Valley.

"I never anticipated getting tickets to the Super Bowl, and actually getting on the plane, meeting my father and being here is incredible and it makes it feel so real," Ryan Ferguson said.

Thursday evening, Ferguson was presented two tickets to Sunday's big game by Texas-based ticket broker Golden Tickets after the co-founder learned of his story.

"His attitude, lack of bitterness -- for lack of a better word -- it just really touched me," said Ram Silverman.

Ferguson was just a teenager when he was arrested and charged with murder in Columbia, Missouri.

He would eventually be convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He served 10 years of that sentence before his conviction was overturned. He was released in late 2013.

"I can honestly say that if it weren't for my father and for my family, I would not be here today. I would have lost myself. I would not have had the strength to get through a decade in prison for a crime I had nothing to do with. I mean, that's just it, I would not be here if it were not for them," Ferguson said.

Which is why he wanted to bring his father, Bill, along to enjoy this moment and, of course, the game.

"It hasn't hit us yet, so we just can't wait to show up and be in the environment and then enjoy ourselves," Ferguson said.

Silverman told 3TV he'd been following Ferguson's story for the last five years, and it was how the now 30-year-old handled himself when he was finally freed that sealed the deal for them.

"We really just were totally inspired. It really makes me feel good that not only just meeting him tonight, just everything about it," Silverman said.

The creators of Golden Tickets hope to continue to be able to offer these large sports packages to deserving recipients on a more regular basis. This was the first time they've done something like this.

While it cannot make up for the pain and the time lost, Golden Tickets says it's about giving Ferguson a little bit of joy.

"It's a very good feeling, and I think everybody really likes hearing something good can happen after a lot of bad happened to him," Golden Tickets President Steve Parry said.

Ferguson and his father received tickets to a tailgate party, and 3TV was told they have great seats to watch the game from Sunday.

For Ferguson, being able to bring his father was a huge because he was a tireless advocate and defender of him the whole time he was in prison.

"That's what makes everything so special to me because family, I've learned, is everything in life," he said. "And the Super Bowl is cool. I love football, I love sports, I'm a very athletic person, but being here without my father, it wouldn't have meant nearly as much. So, now that we get this opportunity to experience it together it will be something I remember for the remainder of my life, I can tell my kids about."