In My Opinion

Packing the Super Bowl: 4 former NC State players in big game

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 29, 2014 

Super Bowl Football

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passes against the Denver Broncos in the first half of a Aug. 17 preseason NFL football game in Seattle. The two teams are slated to meet in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

ELAINE THOMPSON — AP

  • Super Bowl Connections

    N.C. State has four players who will play a significant role in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but there is a sprinkling of others on Super Bowl rosters who also went to college in the Carolinas and have played this season.

    Player Pos. Team College Comment
    Steve VallosCDenverWake ForestSpecial-teamer is in his sixth NFL season
    Sylvester WilliamsDTDenverUNCRookie; first-round pick starts on D-line
    Lemuel JeanpierreC-GSeattleSo. CarolinaVersatile backup O-lineman
    Byron MaxwellCBSeattleClemsonStarter will be targeted by Peyton Manning
    Sidney RiceWRSeattleSo. CarolinaOn injured reserve with a torn-up knee

     

— In a Super Bowl filled with oddities, here is one more to consider: Four former N.C. State players will have a significant role in the outcome of Sunday’s Denver-Seattle game.

You likely know about quarterback Russell Wilson, once a Wolfpack star and now Seattle’s offensive leader. Maybe you have forgotten about J.R. Sweezy, the starting offensive guard for the Seahawks who grew up in Mooresville and played at Mooresville High just like his father and grandfather did. Or Denver starting linebacker Nate Irving. Or Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka.

All played at N.C. State. Only Tennessee, with five players, has more alumni packing this Super Bowl.

“Wolfpack in the house, baby!” Irving proclaimed when I asked him about the reddish tint to the big game.

Irving and Sweezy used to team together on N.C. State’s defense, where Sweezy was an all-conference defensive tackle before Seattle converted him to offensive guard.

“Sweezy was actually helping me then, keeping guys off of me,” Irving said. “Now on Sunday he’s going to be one of the guys coming for me.”

While there is a sprinkling of other players from the Carolinas in this game, no local school has anywhere close to the Wolfpack’s representation.

“Four players?! That’s crazy,” said Broncos rookie defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, the lone former North Carolina player in this Super Bowl.

So with all that talent, how did the Wolfpack not win an ACC championship?

“We had the right pieces,” Wilson lamented Wednesday. “We were so close.”

“Close” is a relative term the way Wilson is using it there, but give the Wolfpack credit for assembling talent.

Hauschka noted that he, Sweezy and Wilson lived in the same dorm for awhile. He said he knew when Seattle drafted Wilson that good things were about to happen.

“When we drafted him two years ago, my wife and I jumped up off the couch,” Hauschka said. “I told her, ‘We’re going to do some special things with him.’ 

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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