Conference USA will be represented by 11 former players in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday, February 3 in Glendale, Ariz. Seven New England Patriots and four New York Giants players hail from current C-USA schools. They will battle each other in pro football’s biggest game for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, as the Patriots aim to become the NFL’s first unbeaten team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Among the Patriots players with Conference USA ties are three key starters who have each been Pro Bowl selections in recent years. Leading the way is former Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss, who set a new NFL record for touchdown receptions this season with 23. Cornerback Asante Samuel, who played at UCF, has six interceptions this season and 16 over the past two years. He will be making his second straight Pro Bowl appearance next week. Linebacker Adalius Thomas, a former C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, is a first-year Patriot that has been to multiple Pro Bowls.
The Patriots special teams units are loaded with Conference USA flavor. Memphis’ Stephen Gostkowski, the 2005 C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year, is in his second year handling the Pats placekicking duties, while Marshall’s Chris Hanson is the team’s punter. Former Rice linebacker Larry Izzo is a longtime special teams standout and has earned three career Pro Bowl trips for his work on that unit.
Veteran Troy Brown, a former Marshall standout, holds numerous New England receiving records and has logged time as a defensive back and on special teams during his 16-year Patriot career.
The Giants have four former C-USA players on its roster, although only two will be active for Sunday’s game. Rookie running back Robert Douglas of Memphis and tight end Darcy Johnson of UCF both suffered season-ending injuries earlier this year and are on injured reserve for New York.
However, back-up offensive tackle Guy Whimper of East Carolina and running back Ahmad Bradshaw of Marshall are expected to see action on Sunday.
Whimper has played in all 16 games this season, while Bradshaw has recently emerged as an offensive weapon for Big Blue. Bradshaw burst onto the scene at Buffalo on Dec. 23 when he ran for 151 yards and a touchdown. He has continued his impact in the postseason, rushing for 163 yards and a TD in the Giants three postseason wins.
With five former players in this year’s Super Bowl, Marshall is surpassed only by Miami of Florida (7) for the most players from one school. USC and LSU also have five of its ex-players lining up on Sunday.