ACC stars, Super Bowl history go hand in hand

From Fred Biletnikoff to Ray Lewis, the current crop of ACC schools has a proud history of representation in Super Bowls.

Fred Biletnikoff, Florida State
Super Bowls II, XI

Ray Lewis, Miami
Super Bowls XXXV, XLVII

Biletnikoff starred at wide receiver at Florida State before being
drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1965. A dozen years later, the blonde, mustachioed Biletnikoff was named the MVP of Super Bowl XI in 1977.

A star linebacker at Miami, Lewis will play the final game of his NFL career in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, when his Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers.

In Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis became one of only eight defensive players — three are from ACC schools — to be named MVP. In all, five players from ACC programs have earned the honor; the other three are Dexter Jackson (Florida State), Ottis Anderson (Miami) and Randy White (Maryland).

Biletnikoff didn’t post eye-popping numbers when the Raiders beat the Vikings 32-14. He caught only four passes for 79 yards, with three receptions setting up Oakland touchdowns. Receptions aside, his route-running abilities and strong presence enabled the Raiders to run the ball more effectively in the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.

Lewis also didn’t post overwhelming numbers (three tackles, two assists, four passes defended) when the Ravens beat the Giants 34-7, but his fiery leadership played a major role in Baltimore shutting out the New York offense (the lone score — a kickoff-return TD).

Jackson intercepted two passes in the first half, setting up a rout in Super Bowl XXXVII as the Buccaneers clobbered the Raiders 48-21. Interestingly, Dwight Smith returned two interceptions for touchdowns, but Jackson won the award because the game was decided by the time Smith made his mark.

Anderson was a terrific tailback for the New York Giants, and in Super Bowl XXV he ran the ball 21 times for 102 yards and scored a touchdown in the club’s thrilling 20-19 victory over the Bills. New York had possession of the ball for more than 40 minutes that night, and Anderson’s work was extremely important in that success.

White was an outstanding defensive tackle at Maryland in the early 1970s and fit right in with the Dallas Cowboys’ needs. One of the top tackles in the NFL, White shared the MVP award with defensive end Harvey Martin in Super Bowl XII. White was dominant stopping Denver’s running attack and applied pressure to its passing game in the 27-10 victory.

Here are the other terrific Super Bowl performances by players from ACC schools:

Willie Parker, North Carolina
Super Bowl XL

“Touchdown” Parker may have been mishandled by UNC coach John Bunting, but the Pittsburgh Steelers had no problem feeding him the ball. Against Seattle, Parker ran the ball 10 times for 93 yards — with 75 coming on the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.

Lawrence Taylor, North Carolina
Super Bowls XXI, XXV

Taylor, the league’s MVP in 1986, starred in two Super Bowl victories with the Giants, though he didn’t post great numbers in either game. But Taylor’s presence on the field commanded so much attention from the opposition that it allowed teammates to have big games.

Bruce Smith, Virginia Tech
Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII

Smith was a part of great Buffalo Bills teams that dominated the AFC in the 1980s and early 90s, The Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls and never won the big prize. Smith registered a couple of sacks in two Super Bowls, even though he was also a concentrated focus for opponents.

Antonio Freeman, Virginia Tech
Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII

Freeman caught three passes for 101 yards — including a then-record, 81-yard touchdown pass — in the Green Bay Packers’ 35-21 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. The next year, he caught nine passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, but Green Bay lost 31-24 to the Broncos.

Derrick Brooks, Florida State
Super Bowl XXXVII

A wild man all over the field in a 48-21 rout of the Oakland Raiders, Brooks recorded three tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown. He was also the AP Defensive Player of the Year that season.

Deion Sanders, Florida State
Super Bowls XXIX, XXX

“Prime Time” covered his cornerback spot so well in XXIX and XXX that opponents just didn’t throw his way. He intercepted a pass in XXIX and was in lock-down mode in the other game. The first win came as a member of the San Francisco 49ers (49-26 over the San Diego Chargers), the second in a victory with the Dallas Cowboys (27-17 over the Pittsburgh Steelers).

Michael Irvin, Miami
Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII, XXX

Irvin played in three winning Super Bowl teams, but his best game came in the Cowboys’ 52-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. Irvin caught six passes for 114 yards and two scores in that game. He scored on passes of 18 and 19 yards from Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.

Thomas Jones, Virginia
Super Bowl XLI

The underrated tailback ran for 112 yards, including a 52-yard dash, in his only Super Bowl appearance. Jones carried the ball just 15 times in the Chicago Bears’ 29-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts that night.