Three former Wildcats ready to represent on footall's biggest stage
As Super Bowl LII approaches, both the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are getting ready for their big showdown in Minneapolis, Minn. While some Wildcat fans may not have a particular team to root for, there are a few familiar faces to be found on both sides.
Three former ‘Cats will be playing in the big game, two for the AFC Champion Patriots and one for the NFC Champion Eagles.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, a Wildcat from 2007-2009, and linebacker Marquis Flowers, a Wildcat from 2010-2013, both made key contributions for the Patriots in their run to yet another Super Bowl. Meanwhile, quarterback Nick Foles, a Wildcat from 2009-2011, stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz in week 14 and played a huge role in the story of the “underdog” Eagles.
Gronkowski, who has had an injury-riddled career, sitting out at least one game in every season since 2011, played in 14 of the Patriot’s 16 games. Despite missing two games, he still led all tight ends in receiving, as he finished with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.
He had three 100-yard games, including a career high 168-yard effort in a crucial game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also had two multi-touchdown games.
Widely regarded as one of the best tight ends of all time, Gronkowski, commonly known as Gronk, became quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite weapon.
In their first playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, Gronk finished with six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Then in the AFC Championship, Gronkowski was held to just one catch for 21 yards before suffering a concussion after a hit from Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church.
While Gronk’s status is still up in the air because of the mystery behind the NFL’s concussion protocol, “[The] overall feel is Rob Gronkowski will be in the lineup for the Super Bowl," according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
After being traded to the Patriots a little over a week before the regular season began, Flowers, who had been a core special teamer for most of his career, quickly saw his role change. After star linebacker Dont’a Hightower was put on IR with a torn pectoral muscle just five games into the season, and with linebacker Kyle Van Noy missing weeks 14 through 17, Flowers saw his defensive snaps increase, and stepped up in a big way.
Flowers finished the season with 32 tackles, three-and-a-half sacks and one forced fumble on an impressive play in a game against the Oakland Raiders.
In the best game of his career, Flowers had ten tackles and two-and-a-half sacks in a week 16 contest against the Buffalo Bills.
Flowers has found a nice home for himself, after a tumultuous beginning to his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s displayed his ability to play well in both coverage and against the run, and has made a few nice plays on blitzes also.
As the big game appears, Flowers will look to build on what has already been a great playoff run for him, as he has five tackles and a sack in two games.
In one of the biggest “OMG” moments of the 2017 NFL season, Carson Wentz, the frontrunner for league MVP, suffered a season-ending torn ACL in a game against the Los Angeles Rams, with just four weeks left in the season. Although he had been a pro-bowler in his career, both media members and fans alike began to count out the Eagles as Super Bowl contenders with Nick Foles as quarterback.
In just two full games (with the NFC’s No. 1 seed locked up, the Eagles elected to sit him after one quarter in their week 17 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys), Foles finished with 400 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Entering the playoffs, however, people were still counting out Foles and the Eagles, which lead the team to take on the “underdog” moniker.
However, Foles did not disappoint in the playoffs, and silenced all of his critics in the process. In a 15-10 win versus the Atlanta Falcons, Foles went 23 for 30, with 246 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but he also didn’t throw an interception.
Then, in a 38-7 trouncing of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, Foles went 26 for 33, racking up 352 yards and three touchdowns.
As the quarterback, Foles plays a huge role in his team’s success, and he’ll look to once again silence any doubters on the biggest stage of them all.
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