What You Don’t Know About the Men Playing in Super Bowl XLVIII

The MMQB called high school and college coaches to pull back the curtain on 14 players—Broncos and Seahawks—as they step into football’s brightest spotlight
Publish date:

If Terrance Knighton had his way, the behemoth better known as Pot Roast would be running slant routes for Tom Brady instead of trying to sack him. If you ever see Virgil Green at a restaurant, tell the waitress it’s his birthday: You will be in for a treat. And if you only associate Golden Tate with the $7,875 fine he received earlier this season for taunting the Rams on a breakaway touchdown, well, there’s more to the wideout than one unfortunate highlight.

“He’s one of the most compassionate people I know,” says one man who knows Tate like few others do. 

In the oversaturated media frenzy that is Super Bowl week, the fact that players are people from diverse backgrounds often gets overlooked. To learn more about the Broncos and Seahawks beyond the manufactured storylines, The MMQB called the players’ high school or college coaches and asked them to share one thing that fans might not know about their former pupils.

The answers will surprise and, in some instances, amuse you.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, David Cutcliffe:

“Peyton is the meanest practical joker I have ever been around. I mean, this is how it was with him: His first year at Tennessee, Peyton locked his competitor for the job, Brandon Stewart, out of the building for our first meeting. The meeting was about to start, and Brandon was nowhere to be found. This was pre-cell-phone days, of course. And I went looking for him, and there he was, outside the building, bloody knuckled from rapping on the door so hard trying to get someone to open up for him. We go in the meeting room, and there’s Peyton, with this sheepish grin on his face.”


Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s high school coach at Collegiate (VA), Charles McFall: 

“Everyone always knew he was going to be a star. I saw it when he was in sixth grade. His older brother played for me, and Russ was a ball boy during one of our games. It must’ve been one of the rare times Russell wasn’t paying attention, because the refs were yelling for the ball. ‘Throw us the ball, kid. Throw us the ball.’ Then all of the sudden little Russell launches it across the field and everyone is just like, Wow, did you see that? Even the refs. Wow. At that point I thought I might retire soon. Let’s say I decided to stick it out a few more years.”


Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton’s high school coach at Milford Academy (NY), Bill Chaplick:

“When Terrance came to [Milton, a postgraduate school], he was about 285-290 pounds. He told us he was a wide receiver. Some of these kids are delusional when they come out of high school. Terrance Knighton? Wide receiver? We said Terrance, ‘That’s great, but with your skill-set, you’re a defensive tackle,’ He played right alongside [former Eagles tackle] Antonio Dixon and they were awesome. But there wasn’t a day that went by that Terrance didn’t try to get over there as an offensive skill player. Once he got the wide receiver thing out of his system, he started begging to play tight end.”


Broncos tackle Ryan Clady’s high school coach at Eisenhower (CA), Mike Clark:

“When Ryan was an NFL rookie, one of his high school teammates was murdered. It was awful, a terribly tragedy. Ryan picked up all the funeral expenses: $10,000. Keep in mind that was his first year making money professionally, and that [his former teammate] wasn’t even his best friend in high school. But his teammate needed something, and Ryan was there for him.”


Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell’s high school coach at Fort Dorchester (SC), Steve LaPrad:

“His junior year he was invited to one of those Nike Combines, a really big deal back then. Threw him in the car and we drove four and a half hours to Jacksonville. We get there, I’m sitting in the stands watching the QBs and wide receivers, just gauging the talent and all the sudden I see Byron standing next to me. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked. He goes, ‘I don’t know if I want to get in there, there’s a lot of good guys.’ I said, ‘Byron, we just drove four and a half hours, get your butt over there and show them what you can do.’ He tears it up, totally dominates. Byron’s from one of the roughest sections in North Charleston, but he’s a quiet, humble guy who never wants the attention. Funny, I think his roommate right now is Richard Sherman.”


Seahawks wideout Golden Tate’s high school coach at Pope John Paul II (TN), Jeff Brothers:

“The spring of Golden’s senior year, we had a terrible stretch of tornadoes. There was one bad one, a really scary tornado. The first person to call my house to find out if my wife and [2-year-old] daughter were OK? Golden Tate. He’s one of the most compassionate people I know.”


Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril’s high school coach at Clay (FL), Jim Reape:

“Cliff’s first love was basketball. He didn’t want to play football. The coaches all had to convince him to come out for the team his sophomore year, and he didn’t really play that year either; spent most of the time learning the rules. Another thing: he’s humble. When he got married last spring, he invited four or five teachers from the school to his wedding, even though he has been gone for years.”


Broncos tight end Virgil Green’s high school basketball coach at Tulare (CA), Mark Hatton:

“We were scouting a basketball game on the road and took the guys to a really nice steakhouse. Told the waitress it was Virgil’s birthday, even though it wasn’t. They put a cowboy hat on him, gave him a candle-lit cupcake and all of the sudden Virgil starts singing louder than everyone else around him. I think he forgot it wasn’t actually his birthday. He lit up the room. Virgil’s probably one of the most fun, energetic kids I’ve ever had. Oh, and get him to dance. He danced all the time: practices, road trips, you name it. He’s one heck of a dancer.”


Seahawks guard James Carpenters high school coach at Hephzibah (GA), John Bowden:

“He was so quiet. You wouldn’t know who he was except that he was the biggest guy in the hallway. In his two seasons, I don’t know if he said even 40 words at practice or games.” [Darian Dulin, who coached Carpenter at Coffeyville Community College (KS) had the same report]: “James was so quiet, and so humble. We always told him he had the potential to play on Sundays. And every time his answer was the same. ‘Oh coach, I don’t know about that.’ ”


Broncos defensive tackle Sylvester Williams’ coach at Coffeyville Community College (KS), Darian Dulin:

“We didn’t want Sylvester. We told him not to show up. We were recruiting his cousin, who told us to check Sylvester out. Sylvester had dropped out of high school, was out of football for a year and was working for a sawmill factory. I didn’t think it would work. We didn’t have a scholarship for him, and I told him not to come. But the both of them showed up, first day of camp. Sylvester was 370 pounds. We kept him for spring ball, mostly because he ran well for his size, but I told him not to come back in the fall unless he was 330. Sure enough, he came back 328. I don’t know how he lost that weight, but the rest is history.”


Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey’s high school coach at Charlton County (GA), Rich McWhorter:

“Champ played quarterback and free safety for us. But when he was a senior, his younger brother, Boss, was a sophomore and a very talented quarterback. So midway through Champ’s senior year, we put Boss at QB and Champ at running back. In his first experience at running back, Champ had a 400-yard rushing game, and then a couple 300-yarders. Man, he made us coaches look good. And I would be remiss not to mention this: He didn’t need football to go to college. An honor student for us, in the gifted program, from seventh through 12th grade.”


Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane’s high school coach at Crenshaw High (CA), Robert Garrett:

“Most high school kids hang out with their friends or go out during lunch. Not Brandon. He’d be in the weight room, a lot of the times all by himself. In fact, he’d always be in the weight room. If you ever needed to find him, that’s where he’d be. Despite his play on the field, Brandon was a gentle giant. One of the most humble, quietest defensive tackles you’ll come across.”


Seahawks wideout Jermaine Kearse’s high school coach at Lakes (WA), Dan Miller:

“Jermaine graduated six years go, but he still comes up to visit about once a month. His mom lives in the area, and there’s a bunch of teachers here that he still knows.  In fact, he goes over to one of his favorite teacher’s house for dinner quite a bit. Ms. Robin Harrell, who teaches home economics.”


Broncos guard Louis Vasquez’s high school coach at Corsicana (TX), Dave Henigan:

“I’ve never seen a kid sign a scholarship then continue to work as hard as Louis did the end of his senior year. When you’re in high school, at least in Texas, the second semester you’re kind of pushed out of athletics. But Louis would come up to the weight room every single day. At that point, you’re on your own. That’s why he started his freshman year at Texas Tech and that’s why he’s been able to sustain the success he’s had in the NFL for an extended period.”

Image placeholder title

Damian Strohmeyer/SI (Manning); John W. McDonough/SI (Wilson); David E. Klutho (Knighton); Steve Dykes/Getty Images (Clady); Brian Bahr/Getty Images (Maxwell); Rod Mar/SI (Tate); Robert Beck/SI (Avril); John W. McDonough/SI (Green); Todd Rosenberg/SI (Carpenter); Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP (Williams); Peter Read Miller/SI (Bailey); Gene Lower/SI (Mebane); Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images (Kearse); Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports (Vasquez)