THERE I was, so close to the Vinny Lombardi trophy that I could almost reach out and touch it. A bit, you might say, like the players of the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons ahead of Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas tomorrow night.

Instead of 60 minutes of tension and bone shuddering action (make that four and a half hours in real time) in front of a world-wide TV audience in the region of 100 million people, all that stands between me and the glittering prize in an upstairs room at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow is a burly security guard called Phil, whose personal mission it is to ensure the safety of the most famous trophy in world sport 365 days a year. Disconcertingly, he is wearing the kind of white gloves usually sported only by snooker referees or perhaps Michael Jackson.

How many superstars of this sport have tried (and often failed) to get their hands on this trophy? Outstanding quarter backs like Dan Marino never made it, and neither did Barry Sanders, the diminutive whirling little dervish from Detroit who was arguably the finest running back the sport has ever seen.

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Named after the second generation Italian immigrant New Yorker who led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967, this 22-inch, seven-pound creation of sterling silver from Tiffany's which I see in front of me is one of the most coveted keepsakes in world sport. Widely regarded as one of the most inspirational coaches to grace any sport, Lombardi's homilies were cited as a huge inspiration by such luminaries as Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin O'Neill.

Anyway I digress, because Big Phil is having none of it. The silverware's personalised security detail looks me up and down and decides that I am likely only to fumble his prized possession, before grudgingly agreeing that I can cosy up to it for a picture or two. While this seems like overkill - I wasn't exactly going to lateral it across the room, or kick it about Princes Street like victorious Scotland rugby players with the Calcutta Cup - somewhere in an office in Glasgow, those responsible for third party insurance at the Herald and Times group breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Anyway, my colleague for the afternoon is Christian Kirksey, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, and he is having no such problems. Not only does the 24-year-old from St Louis, Missouri, possess hands like shovels, the trophy's chaperone quickly cottons on to the fact that, as an NFL employee, the commissioner will pick up the tab if anything goes wrong.

It is little wonder that Kirksey is determined not to let this chance pass. The opportunity to get your hands on the Lombardi trophy doesn't come around too often for Cleveland Browns players. Having gone fifteen years without a play-off appearance and 28 without a divisional title, the Ohio outfit are fast acquiring the unfortunate status of one of sport's joke franchises, a status confirmed by the fact they had the poorest record in the NFL again last season, ending it with just one win to their name. On the plus side, this at least gives them the first overall draft pick April. On the down side, they also had the No 2 overall pick last year and it didn't exactly work out too well.

"Last year was definitely a story," Kirksey told Herald Sport. "It was not what we wanted but at the same time it was a learning experience for us. We had a lot of young guys go out there and get their feet wet. So they will be ready for next year.

"If you look at teams like Oakland, they used to be kind of a joke team, but at one point this year they were No 1 in their division. And I believe they would have gone deep in the playoffs it it wasn't for [their quarterback] Derek Carr getting injured. Who is to say we can't do that next year. We were in a lot of games and they just didn't go our way. Mark my words, I am going to get my hands on that trophy again."

Incidentally, while Kirksey dominates the room and stands 6ft 2in tall one claim to fame is being known as the 'Tiny Titan'. Due to an in-game glitch, he appeared in Madden '15 on the Tennessee Titans roster, standing only 1ft 2in tall. "It is a funny story because when I was coming to the NFL I was considered one of the smallest linebackers," he said. "So it was cool that in my rookie year I was the smallest player ever in the game. Even when I was the tiny Titan, I was still making tackles, grabbing guys by the shoestrings. It was kind of cool. It gave me a little bit of exposure and any publicity is good publicity."

For the record, while he would have preferred Green Bay to end up with this trophy - where his pal Micah Hyde has a key role on the defense - he has said all along that the Patriots are likely to end up top of the pile and he isn't going to change now.

Tom Brady, suspended for the first four games of the season over the 'deflategate' row, is chasing a record fifth Super Bowl ring, with Patriots head coach and evil genius Bill Belichick a latter-day Lombardi. Dan Quinn's explosive Atlanta team, showcasing the likes of wide receiver Julio Jones and quarter back Matt Ryan on offensive, will give them a run for their money.

Should the Patriots prevail, there achievement would be made all the more impressive considering they have done so without the game's top tight end, Rob Gronkowski, who underwent back surgery in December. "Tom Brady is, hands down, one of the best quarterbacks ever, but I have to say Rob Gronkowski is the best player I have ever played against," says Kirksey. "I had to stick with him for a whole game and he is a hell of a player. He has the speed, the size, great hands. It says a lot that they could win it without him but I think they can, because [Martellus] Bennett [their other tight end] is just about as good as he is."

Aside from the random sighting of former Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch in Houston, Renfrewshire, last month, one more source of pre-Super Bowl intrigue on Sunday night is half-time show act Lady Gaga, and whether this arch critic of Donald Trump might, to borrow from baseball phraseology, throw in a political curveball. But as the ticker tape falls on Sunday night, and the victors get their hand on the trophy, just remember that just out of shot there is a burly security guard called Phil. And he's watching you.