Sports fans everywhere rejoice — Super Bowl week is finally here. Sunday will be an unofficial national holiday for many, as the Baltimore Ravens take on Fresno’s adopted team, the San Francisco 49ers at the Superdome in New Orleans.
This will be the 49ers’ first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl XXIX following the 1994 season, when they had the likes of Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders on their team.
For the Ravens, this is their first shot at a championship since Super Bowl XXXV, when former Bulldog quarterback Trent Dilfer led them to a comfortable win over the New York Giants.
This Super Bowl has more significance to Fresno State though than just the teams involved. There are two Bulldogs in Super Bowl XLVII. Both of whom are on the practice squad. Though they are more a part of the team than most of us will ever hope to be.
Our Bulldog representatives are Lonyae Miller, running back for the Ravens, and Kenny Wiggins, offensive tackle for the 49ers.
Wiggins has been giving updates on his Twitter account, @KennyWiggins60, about his Super Bowl experience thus far.
After the 49ers clinched the NFC championship on Jan. 20, the proud Bulldog tweeted, “On to the Super Bowl crazy feeling #9erEmpire #questfor6 #QuestforSix #49ers #49erFaithful #SuperBowl #superbowlbound.”
It gets better for Fresno State football fans. Even if the Ravens and 49ers both lost, Fresno State still would have had Super Bowl representatives. To get this far Miller’s Ravens had to beat the New England Patriots.
The Pats would have given us two Bulldogs playing for the championship, guard Logan Mankins and center Ryan Wendell. Both players were on the team last season when New England lost to the New York Giants. Two other Bulldogs, tight end Bear Pascoe and backup quarterback David Carr, walked away with rings.
Wiggins and the 49ers took on the Atlanta Falcons, a team with close Fresno State ties as well. After 15 years in Fresno, former head coach Pat Hill is now the offensive line coach in Atlanta.
This NFL postseason has been filled with former ‘Dogs. The Minnesota Vikings had cornerback A.J. Jefferson and the Houston Texans had fullback Tyler Clutts, who played defensive end while he was at Fresno State.
The Bulldogs have a history in football’s biggest game. Some are well-known to the campus, but many have been forgotten about.
Pascoe and Carr won with the 2011 Giants. ESPN analyst and former Bulldog great Dilfer helped the Ravens beat the Giants back in 2000 at Super Bowl XXXV. Mankins has lost two Super Bowls with the Patriots, but those are just a few of the Bulldogs that have been fortunate enough to go to the NFL’s biggest game.
The first time that Mankins lost a Super Bowl, he was not the only Bulldog in the game, or even on his own team. Free safety James Sanders and tight end Stephen Spach were both Patriots, and running back Derrick Ward was on the Giants team that beat them.
In Super Bowl XXXVII, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers obliterated the Oakland Raiders, sending the Raiders on a 10-year spiral they have yet to pull out of, Michael Pittman was a running back for those Bucs. He made an impact too, rushing for 124 yards on 29 attempts.
The season that saw Fresno State hero Dilfer bring home a ring, Omar Stoutmire was standing on the opposite sideline as a defensive back for the Giants.
In Super Bowl XXXIV, the year before Dilfer’s win, Lorenzo Neal was the fullback for the Tennessee Titans that lost the championship by one-yard to Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams.
That is a bit of a pattern for Bulldogs that make it to the Super Bowl. Of the 19 former Fresno State players to be on a Super Bowl roster, only seven have been lucky enough to win.
No Bulldog has gotten to experience that bittersweet feeling of making it to the Super Bowl, only to lose, more than James Williams. He was fortunate enough to go all the way four times. In fact, it was his first four seasons in the league.
Unfortunately, Williams happened to be on the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have gone down in football history as the only team to make it to four straight Super Bowls, but they also have the tragic distinction of having lost all four of them.
The first Bulldog to win a ring did it against Williams’ Bills in his first trip to the Bowl in Super Bowl XXV. Stephen Baker was a wide receiver for the Giants team that beat the Bills by one point because of a missed field goal attempt. Baker was not just on the sideline though, he actually contributed to the win.
On top of two receptions and 31 receiving yards, he scored the first touchdown of the game for the Giants on a 14-yard pass, which means Stephen Baker is the first Bulldog to ever score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The first Super Bowl appearance ever by a Bulldog came in Super Bowl XVIII. Anthony Washington was a defensive back for the 1983 Washington Redskins that lost the game to the Los Angeles Raiders.
Well, there you have it, Fresno State’s long history with the Super Bowl. This Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII, that history will continue. Regardless of which team wins in New Orleans — the Ravens or Fresno’s beloved 49ers — another Fresno State Bulldog will walk away with a ring.
Here are the following Fresno State alumni that have participated in the last six Super Bowls…
*Bear Pascoe TE (NYG)
*David Carr QB (NYG)
Logan Mankins G (NE)
Ryan Wendell C (NE)
Bryan Robinson DL (ARIZ)
Stephen Spach TE (ARIZ)
*Derrick Ward RB (NYG)
Logan Mankins G (NE)
James Sanders FS (NE)
Stephen Spach TE (NE)
Bernard Berrian WR (CHI)
Cameron Worrell DB (CHI)
*denotes Super Bowl champion