Before joining the Chiefs or 49ers.
Before signing multi-million dollar contracts.
Before getting ready to play in Super Bowl 54 for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Before becoming a professional athlete and playing in nationally televised games on Sunday, today’s NFL stars were first warriors of the gridiron on Saturday playing for some of the best college football programs in the country.
Looking back on the “glory days” brings fond memories and big smiles to even some of the league’s hardest hitters.
College football creates a brotherhood in the locker-room more exclusive than any on campus fraternity. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu beams when discussing that special bond with his teammates from LSU which included Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Morris Claiborne, and Eric Reid.
Its rivalries run so deep that even an NFL superstar like Patrick Mahomes still gushes over beating in state rival Texas, 27-23 during his time as a Red Raider.
Sammy Watkins gets chills thinking about running down the hill at Clemson.
Dee Ford gets goosebumps when describing the Tiger Walk at Auburn.
Long before sacking quarterbacks while fans do the Kansas City Tomahawk Chop, former Alabama Linebacker and 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Reggie Ragland was sacking passers while fans screamed Roll Tide. The former All-American looks back on his two National Championships for the Crimson Tide the same way a proud parent does when seeing their child take their first steps.
We spoke with more than a dozen players, all of whom glowed when thinking of their best memory. Even as they are about to play in the biggest games of their lives, their admiration reminiscing about their college teams, the fans, their teammates and coaches is a testament to their loyalty to those programs.
Not every college football star gets a chance to play in the NFL, let alone in the Super Bowl. But for the ones fortunate enough to make it to Miami for Super Bowl 54, their memories from playing on Saturday still hold a major place in their minds and hearts.