Van Jefferson's Wife Samaria Recalls Being Taken Out of Super Bowl on a Stretcher While in Labor

In the latest issue of PEOPLE, the L.A. Rams wide receiver and his wife Samaria recall the day they welcomed their son — hours after the Super Bowl

As Van Jefferson ran onto the field alongside the Los Angeles Rams to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, the wide receiver was completely unaware that up in the stands his pregnant wife Samaria was breathing through persistent contractions.

"I did not want to miss the game for anything," Samaria, 23, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of walking into SoFi Stadium hours before giving birth on Feb. 13. "I had made the decision to let him play and not tell him I was in labor."

"We were walking up to the stadium, I'm having to stop every five minutes because of the pain," she recalls.

For more on Van Jefferson's newborn and family, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

For almost two quarters, Samaria sat "crying, covering my face, making sure no one can see that I'm in pain," she says. As halftime neared, with the Rams leading the Bengals, the contractions became unbearable and medical staff rushed Samaria out on a stretcher and to the local hospital.

"I was like, 'I can't take it anymore.' I'm barely able to talk at this point," says Samaria, who later declined to be admitted and instead took an Uber to her birthing center, where her water broke within an hour of her arrival. "I started bawling. I was like, 'I don't want to do this without Van.' "

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Van Jefferson and Wife Samaria Introduce Baby Boy
Van Jefferson, wife Samaria and their newborn son Champ. Ari & Louise

Back at the stadium, as confetti rained down on the Rams following their win, Van, 25, recalls a sense of disbelief as he was alerted that Samaria was delivering their son at any second.

"I was like, 'Are you serious right now?' We hauled tail. In the car, I'm going, 'You need to push this car a little bit faster, we need to get there,' " says Van, who witnessed his baby's birth over FaceTime as he sat in Los Angeles traffic still reeling over his team's victory.

"It was an amazing feeling. Winning the Super Bowl and then being able to see your newborn was such a special moment for me."

Watch the full episode of People Features: Van & Samaria Jefferson on or on the PeopleTV app.

Now a week into life with their son Champ Curtis, Samaria and Van say things have "been crazy." (The couple also share daughter Bella, 5, while Van is dad to a 4-year-old son named Vanchi.)

"My responsibilities are at home, but Samaria did let me celebrate with the teammates. You don't get to the Super Bowl often, so you've got to enjoy it."

He adds of Samaria, whom he wed in 2020, "I'm so proud of her. That was the ultimate best day of my life. I don't know how I can top that."

For more from Van Jefferson and his wife Samaria, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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