Tennessee Ties Miami For Most Players to Ever Play in Super Bowl
Former Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley didn’t learn he’d be starting in the NFC Championship until hours before the game.
After Ahkello Witherspoon was benched in the 49ers’ win over the Vikings in the Divisional Round, the 49ers turned to Moseley to lead their secondary across from the legendary Richard Sherman.
The move paid off in spades. Moseley picked off Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the end of the first half, setting up a Raheem Mostert touchdown that would give San Francisco a 27-0 halftime lead.
Moseley won’t be the only Tennessee player to start in this year’s Super Bowl, either, as Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt will represent the Vols in the AFC.
Moseley and Colquitt will be doing more than representing Tennessee in the Super Bowl, however. They will become the 64th and 65th VFLs to play in the Super Bowl since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, which ties Tennessee with Miami for the most alumni to ever play in the Super Bowl.
In honor of this record, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable performances that VFLs have put on in the NFL’s biggest game.
Willie Gault, Super Bowl XX
Before the Chicago Bears ever made Super Bowl XX, Willie Gault had made his mark on Super Bowl history. Gault organized his teammates and was the creator of “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” a rap song that the Bears recorded in the middle of the 1985 season. The song was incredibly popular, peaking at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and receiving a Grammy nomination.
In Super Bowl XX, the Bears backed up their song by destroying the New England Patriots 46-10. Gault finished with four receptions for a game-high 129 yards.
Reggie White, Super Bowl XXXI
The Minister of Defense was one of the greatest NFL players to ever walk this earth. And he proved it in Super Bowl XXXI, leading the Green Bay Packers to a 35-21 win over the Patriots. White finished the game with three sacks on Pats quarterback Drew Bledsoe, including two back-to-back sacks which destroyed a Patriots drive in the second half.
White would go on to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award twice during his storied career. We miss you, Reggie.
Jamal Lewis, Super Bowl XXXV
Most remember Jamal Lewis’s time in the NFL for his historic 2,000-yard season in 2003. But two years earlier, in his rookie year, Lewis helped the Baltimore Ravens win their first-ever Super Bowl by blowing out the New York Giants 34-7.
During Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis rushed for 102 yards and scored a dagger touchdown to give the Ravens an unsurmountable 24-point lead in the fourth quarter. During the game, Lewis became the second rookie to ever rush for over 100 yards in a Super Bowl and the youngest player to score a Super Bowl touchdown.
Peyton Manning, Super Bowl XLI
Peyton Manning’s NFL career was legendary from start to finish, winning two Super Bowls and five MVPs during his time in the league. Before that, though, he was seen as a regular season player who could never lead the Indianapolis Colts (or Vols) to postseason glory.
This all changed in Super Bowl XLI, however, as the Manning-led Colts beat the Bears 29-17 in the first Super Bowl ever played in the rain. Manning threw for 247 yards and a deep touchdown to Reggie Wayne as the Colts took home the Lombardi Trophy. Nine years later, Manning would win a second Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in his last NFL game.
Derek Barnett, Super Bowl LII
The most recent entrant on this list, Derek Barnett, finished his rookie season with a storybook ending in Super Bowl LII. Barnett had been largely quiet in the Super Bowl, as he was a member of a stacked Philadelphia Eagles defensive line that included stars such as Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long. But Barnett wouldn’t stay quiet for much longer.
With 2:09 left in the game and the Eagles nursing a five-point lead, Graham got to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and forced a fumble with a strip-sack. Barnett pounced on the ball, and the Eagles went on to stun the Patriots with a Super Bowl victory.