While Patriots fans are flocking to The Stonewell Restaurant in Farmington for the biggest football game of the year, owners Niki and Stelios Koutouvides will not be in attendance for the first time in six years.
Instead, the Plainville couple will be at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis to watch firsthand as their son, Patriots linebacker and Avon resident Niko Koutouvides, 30, hopes to help his team lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"I am proud of him," Niki said. "We're very happy for him."
There was never a question about taking a few days off from The Stonewell Restaurant, which she and Stelios have owned for 22 years, to head west to watch his game, she said. Niko's brothers, Ari and Daki Koutouvides, and other relatives will also be there.
By the time the couple caught their early-morning flight Thursday, many football fans were already calling to make reservations for Super Bowl Sunday at their Route 6 restaurant. Stonewell always hosts a Super Bowl party, Niki said, but this year, she is expecting it to be even larger as fans come to watch on the big screen television and support Niko and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who lives in Bristol.
No reservations are required, Niki said. There will be specials, and, of course, wings and beer, as well as a halftime buffet.
Patriots shirts and flags and photographs of Niko playing college football at Purdue University hang on Stonewell's walls, but Niki doesn't think too much about being the mother of an NFL linebacker.
"You know, I never really see it that way," Niki said. "It feels very good for him and his success. It feels great. He's just my kid."
For her, it isn't much different than watching him play growing up in Plainville. He started playing at 8 years old and continued through his four years at Plainville High School, where he was a team captain.
"Actually, it's still the same feeling," Niki said. "You're still excited, you're still afraid for him not to get hurt. The same feelings that everyone goes through."
She and Stelios have done a good deal of traveling over the past 15 years, which she credits to Niko, who played for the Seattle Seahawks from 2004 to 2007, the Denver Broncos in 2008 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009 and 2010, before joining the Patriots last year. The Koutouvides family also went to Indiana to attend some of his college games.
Niki and Stelios Koutouvides were in Foxborough, MA, on Jan. 22 to see their son advance to the second Super Bowl of his NFL career after the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens 20-17 and claimed the AFC title. Niko was with the Seahawks in 2006 when he went to the Super Bowl the first time.
While she liked all the teams her son played for, Niki said she is happy to have him close to home again playing for the New England team she often watched. Joining the Patriot roster was "comfortable" for Niko, she said, because it allowed him to be close to family.
"That was one [reason]," she said. "He was just excited to play and he had a job. That's how that goes."
And what's the first thing Niko's family will do if the Patriots beat the New York Giants?
"Celebrate," Niki said. "It will be exciting."
The Stonewell Restaurant is located on 354 Colt Highway (Route 6) in Farmington. More information is available on the restaurant website or via phone at 860-677-8855.
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