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Baltimore doctor gets an NFL draft surprise: A call from Roger Goodell and Super Bowl tickets

“Hey, doc, it’s Roger Goodell,” the NFL commissioner said from the basement of his home in New York’s Westchester County.

“Hey. Sorry, I can’t talk at the moment. … Who’s this?” El-Haddad responded.

“Roger Goodell,” Goodell repeated.

El-Haddad then realized that the caller was the NFL’s leader. El-Haddad is a Baltimore Ravens personal seat license owner. He often wears Ravens logos on his medical garments while treating patients, and he participated in Thursday night’s NFL draft broadcast after being chosen based on a video that he had submitted.

“He caught me off guard,” El-Haddad said in a phone interview Monday, adding that he had been waiting to hear from another doctor about a patient they were treating. “When the phone went off, I immediately answered [without checking the caller]. I was so embarrassed.”

El-Haddad apologized to Goodell during the call and expressed his gratitude. Goodell, after saying he would “rather have you take care of the patients” if needed and offering to call back, proceeded to tell El-Haddad how appreciative the league is of his work and said the NFL was giving him two tickets to Super Bowl LV in Tampa at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

“We’re all behind you,” Goodell said on the video call. “And the fact that you bring the Ravens into it is even better.”

El-Haddad was a participant in what the NFL called its “inner circle” of fans who appeared on the screen during the telecast of the remotely conducted draft. He submitted his video, he said, after the Ravens notified PSL owners about the opportunity.

“I was between cases at the hospital,” El-Haddad said. “I said, ‘That might be fun.’ So I made the video. I just tried to talk about what a bizarre time this is. We’re learning every day. It’s a scary time for everyone. We don’t know how this is going to turn out. We need things to get our minds off of all of that, and Baltimore loves their Ravens. Patients are anxious. They’ll see that [his Ravens logo] and say, ‘Go Ravens!’ It’s a good way to connect and put people more at ease.”

Goodell said Sunday that the doctor’s video was moving and illustrative of what the nation’s health-care workers are enduring amid the coronavirus crisis.

“His appeal to get into the fan inner circle was how much the Ravens mean to him [and] how he wears this every day and how the patients love it, and the loneliness that the patients and the health-care workers are working through because they’re disconnected from family and they’re isolated,” Goodell said. “It was so emotional. … It chokes me up now to think about it, the impact that we had or that the NFL had or the Ravens had in this case specifically and how he’s using that to connect with patients and bring some joy and some diversion and some feeling of community. That was really powerful.”

Goodell said he made the call Saturday afternoon.

“He was extraordinary. … To be able to give two Super Bowl tickets to somebody who’s been through what he’s been through and to be able to lift their spirits, that’s a cool thing,” Goodell said. “It’s a great thing to feel.”

El-Haddad said the call from Goodell was “a nice pick-me-up.” He snapped a screen shot during the video call after asking Goodell’s permission.

“I honestly don’t feel deserving,” El-Haddad said. “I love what I do. I really feel blessed to do what I do. The public has been very ingratiated [to health-care workers]. But, honestly, I just hope we can get this under control.”

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