Thanks to New England's victory over San Diego, Junior Seau is making a return appearance in the Super Bowl after a 13-year wait. The 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker hasn't played in football's showcase event since leading the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX. Here's a sport-by-sport look at 14 other notable athletes who endured lengthy intervals between title shots.<br><br>Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 of 15NFL/WireImage.com, John Iacono/SI
Matt Bahr, 11 years
The rookie place-kicker out of Penn State played a supporting in Super Bowl XIV, booting a 41-yard field goal and four extra points in a 31-19 triumph. Eleven seasons later, in a 15-13 upset of the 49ers in the NFC title game, Bahr kicked five field goals -- including a 42-yarder as time expired -- to single-footedly propel the Giants into Super Bowl XXV. Two Sundays later, his fourth-quarter chip shot gave New York a 20-19 lead over Buffalo and proved to be the game-winning score.
3 of 15Phillip Leonian/SI
Sonny Jurgensen, 12 years
Jurgensen earned his first NFL title with the Eagles in 1960, the final season of his four-year apprenticeship under Hall of Fame signal-caller Norm Van Brocklin. The Duke alum took over starting duties the following year -- earning the first of five Pro Bowl bids -- but didn't return to the league's championship game until reaching Super Bowl VII with the Redskins at the tail end of his career. Unfortunately, a tendon injury kept Jurgensen sidelined on Super Sunday while replacement quarterback Billy Kilmer struggled through a 14-7 loss to the undefeated Dolphins.
4 of 15Manny Millan/SI, John Biever/SI
Robert Parish, 10 years
The league's all-time leader in games played made his fifth NBA Finals appearance in 1987, when the Celtics suffered a six-game defeat at the hands of the Lakers. The Chief would play nine more seasons with Boston and Charlotte before Jerry Krause signed the 43-year-old free agent to the Bulls as a third-string center behind Luc Longley and Brian Williams. Parish played just 18 minutes in just two games during the playoffs -- but closed out his record-setting career with a fourth championship ring.
5 of 15Manny Millan/SI, John W. McDonough/SI
Earl Cureton, 11 years
Cureton spent most of his 12-year career coming off the bench, filling a reserve role on a pair of championship teams. The Detroit native came up with the 76ers and played behind Moses Malone and Clemon Johnson on the Fo' Fo' Fo' title team which rolled to a 12-1 record in the 1983 playoffs. Eleven years later, the 36-year-old post player backed up Hakeem Olajuwon and Otis Thorpe as the Rockets eked past the Knicks in a seven-game thriller.
6 of 15Stephen Dunn/Getty Images, Elsa/Getty Images
Elden Campbell, 13 years
As a 22-year-old rookie out of Clemson, Campbell backed up Vlade Divac and helped the Lakers earn a spot opposite Chicago in the 1991 NBA Finals. Four teams and 13 seasons later, Campbell returned to the championship round as a member of the Pistons. The 35-year-old post man played a surprisingly important defensive role in Detroit's five-game victory over three-time defending champ Los Angeles, using his imposing physical frame to help corral Shaquille O'Neal.
7 of 15Heinz Kluetmeier/SI, Walter Iooss Jr./SI
Tony Gwynn, 14 years
Gwynn spent his entire 20-year career with the Padres, winning eight batting titles and five Gold Gloves. But the perennial All-Star had the misfortune of drawing a pair of history's most accomplished teams as opponents in his two World Series appearances. San Diego won the franchise's first-ever pennant in Gwynn's third year with the club but fell to the Tigers in five games. Fourteen years later, Gwynn made it back to the Series -- but the Padres dropped four straight contests to a Yankees team widely considered the best squad ever assembled.
8 of 15Ronald C. Modra/SI
Dennis Martinez, 16 years
The right-handed workhorse known as El Presidente helped Baltimore to the American League pennant in his fourth major league season, pacing the Orioles in innings pitched (292.3) and complete games (18). Sixteen years later, Martinez pitched the Indians to their first World Series since 1954 with a masterful performance in Game 6 of the 1995 ALCS. But his team would again fall short in the Fall Classic as the Tribe bowed to the Atlanta Braves, four games to two.
9 of 15Louis Requena/MLB Photos via Getty Images, John McDonough/Icon SMI
Jim Kaat, 17 years
The last surviving member of the original Washington Senators pitched an incredible quarter-century in the majors, making his first World Series appearance with Minnesota in 1965. The southpaw started three games against Sandy Koufax -- outdueling the Hall of Famer with a complete game shutout in Game 2 -- during Minnesota's seven-game defeat at the hands of the Dodgers. Seventeen years later, Kaat won his only World Series ring working out of the bullpen for St. Louis as the Cardinals defeated the Brewers in seven.
10 of 15Al Bello/Getty Images
Ron Hextall, 10 years
Philadelphia's first-year goaltender stood on his head between the pipes throughout a dramatic seven-game standoff against the Oilers in the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers ultimately lost the series but Hextall took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. Hextall's second title shot, following a decade-long wait, proved considerably less memorable: Philly's punchless offense mustered just six goals in a four-game sweep against Detroit.
11 of 15David E. Klutho/SI, AP
Ray Bourque, 11 years
Bourque's lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 21 seasons with the Bruins came during his career year in 1990, when the longtime Boston captain finished second to Mark Messier in the closest-ever balloting for the Hart Trophy. The defenseman requested a trade from the floundering Bruins during the 2000 season -- hoping for one last title shot -- and landed in Colorado. Bourque played one-and-a-half more seasons and helped the Avalanche to a seven-game victory in the 2001 Finals. Three days later, Bourque brought the Cup back to Boston for an emotional downtown rally.
12 of 15Lou Capozzola/SI, AP
Brett Hull, 13 years
After playing two seasons of college hockey for Minnesota-Duluth, Hull turned pro and joined the Flames midway through the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs. The 21-year-old winger played in just two contests as Calgary won its first-ever conference title before falling to Montreal in five games. After 11 prolific seasons with St. Louis, Hull inked a free-agent contract with Dallas and led the Stars into the Finals, where his controversial triple-overtime goal in Game 6 secured the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup.
13 of 15Heinz Kluetmeier/SI, Chuck Solomon/SI
Dino Ciccarelli, 14 years
No player in league history endured a longer drought between Stanley Cup Finals appearances than Ciccarelli, who many consider the best player to never win an NHL title. The Canadian-born winger scored 14 postseason goals as a rookie to help lead the Minnesota North Stars to their first-ever Finals -- before dropping a five-game series against the heavily favored Islanders. Cicarelli returned to the brink of the championship 14 seasons later as a member of a Detroit team that entered the playoffs with the league's best record -- but a surprising four-game sweep at the hands of New Jersey promptly ended his title hopes.
14 of 15Bongarts/Getty Images, Michael Steele/Getty Images
Lothar Matthaus, 12 years
The longtime German national played in five World Cups from 1982 through 1998, skippering <i>Die Nationalelf</i> to its third-ever title in 1990. But the international successes sharply contrast the legendary Champions League disappointments. In the 1987 final, his Bayern Munich team lost 2-1 against F.C. Porto after coughing up a 1-0 lead in the last 12 minutes. A shot at redemption 12 years later proved even more gut-wrenching: With just four minutes left and Munich nursing a 1-0 lead over Manchester United, the aging Matthaus exited the game for a substitute -- and watched the English club score twice during injury time for a stunning 2-1 victory.
15 of 15Ken Regan/SI, Will Hart/SI
George Foreman, 16 1/2 years
After suffering his lone career knockout against Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman sank into a deep depression and remained inactive for two years. After six more fights during 1976 and 1977, Foreman spent 10 years in retirement before announcing a comeback. The brawny 41-year-old finally earned another shot at the title against undisputed champion Evander Holyfield, impressing many doubters in going the distance before dropping a unanimous decision. (Three years later, Foreman became the oldest-ever heavyweight champ with a shocking 10th-round knockout of Michael Moorer.)<br><br>Send comments to email@example.com
You May Like
More More Sports
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!