Following a 2-10 campaign, Rutgers can turn to Super Bowl LI for inspiration; a game that will feature twice as many former Scarlet Knights (four) as the team’s 2016 win total. The Patriots and Falcons square off on February 5, in a tilt teeming with NJ natives and connecting storylines. For example, it will feature more Rutgers alums than any other school with players in the game.
New England’s secondary includes three former Rutgers players: Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon. McCouty’s twin brother, Jason, who plays for the Titans, also attended Rutgers after graduating from Saint Joseph Regional High in Montvale.
Rutgers Players in the Big Game
The Patriots put outside linebacker Jonathan Freeney on injured reserve, so the Scarlet Knight won’t play in the Super Bowl; but he did make four starts this season prior to the injury and started seven games in 2015.
It would be an oversight not to mention Jersey native Chris Hogan; he has emerged as one of New England’s most dangerous receivers this postseason. Hogan, who was born in Wyckoff, played lacrosse at Penn State after graduating from Ramapo High. He graduated from Penn State in 2010 with a year of eligibility remaining; and decided to play at Monmouth University for one season. Then he latched on with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent, but was cut a few months later. He quickly signed with the Giants, but New York released Hogan before he could appear in a single game for them. After a few successful seasons with Buffalo, New England signed Hogan to a three-year offer sheet, which the Bills declined to match.
The Falcons only have one former Rutgers player, but his contributions could prove key for the team’s offense; in particular, if the Patriots decide to double-cover Atlanta’s star receiver, Julio Jones. Mohamed Sanu signed a five-year deal worth $32.5 million this past offseason; this, after spending the first four years of his pro career with the Bengals. Sanu had a solid first year with the Falcons, bringing in 59 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns.
On the Field, and On the Sidelines
In addition, Matt Simms – the son of former Giants Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms and brother of former pro Ramapo High star Chris Simms – played at Don Bosco Prep and is on Atlanta’s practice squad; this means he won’t play in Super Bowl LI, but would receive a Super Bowl ring if the Falcons win. Meanwhile, Nick Williams, an Atlanta receiver, attended the Hun School of Princeton, was born in Hightstown and grew up in East Windsor.
Finally, second-year Falcons coach Dan Quinn hails from New Jersey. The 46-year-old grew up as the youngest of six kids in Morristown and graduated from Morristown High School in 1989. Twenty-three years after beginning his coaching career at William & Mary, Quinn will attempt to lead Atlanta to its first ever Super Bowl title.
No matter which team wins Super Bowl LI, football fans in New Jersey can celebrate the numerous talented athletes from the Garden State competing in America’s most-watched television broadcast.
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