The famous diss that every college fan makes to their rival is comparing them to Honey Nut Cheerios. Said fan asks what is the difference between their rival and Cheerios. The smug rival pretends to be stumped. “Whatever could it be?” they ask. The fan jumps up and down and proclaims. “Cheerios belong in a Bowl! Get it? Cause your team doesn’t!”
An unnamed organization in the Beehive State enjoys these jokes among other ones such as co-ed jokes about their rival, scoreboard bumper stickers (34-31 and 52-10 being the most popular) and saran wrapping the mascot statue of that old Team Down South.
Despite the constant debate over which college team is the best, it goes without saying that schools in the Beehive State have done a good job at preparing their kids for the next level. Over 50 Super Bowls there have been 83 players who suited up for a college team in Utah. The total count will jump up to 87 after this weekend as two Utes, a Cougar and an Aggie will be playing in Super Bowl 51.
Not all of the 83 could be winners. Few of them won multiple Super Bowls and only 35 of them won. For you math nerds that’s about 42% or a little less than the probability of winning the coin toss.
Former Aggie and Falcons tight end D.J Tialavea caught his first touchdown passes near the end of the regular season but isn’t expected to get much or any time in this Super Bowl with a vast array of experience on the receiving core. Derrick Shelby, a Falcons defensive end from the University of Utah, isn’t expected to play either but for a different reason. He tore his Achilles in the regular season on October 18th so he will be prepping for a possible Super Bowl comeback next year. He did well in the four games he started as he averaged two tackles per game in them.
Two rivals share the same Patriot uniform this weekend as Ute Eric Rowe and Cougar standout Kyle VanNoy will wear the red, white and blue. Rowe row, row, rowed his boat to the passing seam. He intercepted Big Ben and thought it was a dream. Ok enough with the nursery song parody. Eric intercepted a two time Super Bowl quarterback in Steelers star Ben Roethlesberger. He will now face a less experienced postseason team in the Falcons so he has to like his chances. He might not be the best corner in the game as Seahawks star Richard Sherman has already self proclaimed himself to be the one. Eric can hoist the trophy while Sherman watches from home though if he lets his game do the talking.
Kyle VanNoy recorded four solo tackles and a fumble in the 36-9 win over the Patriots and is considered to be one of the greatest defensive players of all time in BYU history. He was on a nationally ranked defense in 2012 that defeated a rival and another nationally ranked defense in Utah State. The score was 6-3. Not many offenses get by Kyle so it will be interesting to see if he makes an impact on one of the most high powered offenses in the NFL.
Where will this year’s group of Beehive Bowlers rank among the all time greats to come out of the state? That remains to be seen but here are three of the greatest ones:
1. Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers: This Lavell Edwards product from Brigham Young University is certainly the most decorated with three Super Bowl titles. He finished with a career completion percentage of 64.3%. He started out as the backup to all time great Joe Montana but proceeded to help the 49ers become the first team to win 5 Super Bowls. He is easily the most recognized football name to come from a college in Utah and his accomplishments give him the top spot on the list.
2. Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks: This Utah State University product led the defense known as the Legion of Boom to a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. He recorded 10 tackles and 5 of them were solos. He also guided the Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance the following year which was the first repeat Super Bowl appearance in over a decade. Bobby has been to three Pro Bowls and is consistently helping the Seattle Seahawks make deep playoff runs and hopefully a return to another Super Bowl.
3. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers: Even though this Ute didn’t win the Super Bowl over Tom Brady, he was still an all time great player. He was a go to wide receiver who caught four passes for 60 yards in Super Bowl XXXVIII (Super Bowl 38). They only lost by a field goal but Steve can hang his head high because at least he didn’t have a wardrobe malfunction like there was during the halftime show.