PHOENIX - She's just a rookie, and already Jordin Sparks is going further in the NFL than her father. Only 2 1/2 months after the youngest "American Idol" winner released her debut album, the teen is set to perform the national anthem Sunday at the Super Bowl. In nine years as a pro cornerback, pop Phillippi Sparks never reached the big game.
"I said, 'Dad, I'm singing at the Super Bowl,'" she said Thursday. "He said, 'At least one of us made it.'"
No surprise about which team she'll root for when the New York Giants play the New England Patriots. Her dad spent all but one season with the Giants.
"There definitely is a tie with them," the 18-year-old Sparks said. "I got to go for the underdogs."
Sparks considers herself a "huge, humongous football fan." Nine-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys, who will provide the pregame entertainment, is less so — most of the time, anyway.
"Even I, who might think the Mighty Ducks and Penguins are playing, love the Super Bowl," Keys said. For the record, she's pulling for her hometown Giants.
Tom Petty, headlining the halftime show with his Heartbreakers, stayed neutral.
"I'm for everybody," he said.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, however, has a fan in Bill Belichick. In a light moment for him, the Patriots coach admitted he was sorry to miss Petty's performance and said he might play the band's CDs while preparing for the game.
"Well, it's never kept anyone from winning," Petty said.
Like previous halftime performers Prince, the Rolling Stones and U2, Petty's greatest challenge will come in whittling down his band's work into a tight set. They have a total of 12 minutes to perform, and that includes moving 56 carts on and off the field.
"There's this football game that has to go on," Petty said.
Petty grew up in Gainesville, Fla., and does root for the Gators. He also wasn't picking any political candidates, even though his "American Girl" was blasting during Hillary Clinton's recent campaign rallies in New Hampshire.
"We weren't aware of it, but we've heard about it," he said. "We're not endorsing any candidates. You wouldn't want to take a guitar player's advice."
Sparks lives in nearby Glendale — convenient, because the Super Bowl will be played there, at the University of Phoenix Stadium. She sang the national anthem before the Arizona Cardinals played their first regular-season game at the stadium in 2006, but the Super Bowl is in another league.
"For me, since my career has been a couple of months, it's way up there," she said.
Sitting next to Sparks, Keys looked forward to a European tour that begins Feb. 25. Coming off her album "As I Am," she also announced the dates and locations of her U.S. tour, starting April 19 in Hampton, Va., and ending June 18 at Madison Square Garden.
Before that, there's Sunday's performance.
"I'm going to take you by the neck and demand that you watch me," Keys said.
"What she said," Sparks echoed.