MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When the Cincinnati Bengals knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game, offensive lineman Quinton Spain earned the opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy.
Spain is the latest former West Virginia football player to have a shot at winning the Super Bowl, andf he and the Bengals can defeat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, he would be the first former Mountaineer to be a Super Bowl champ in four years.
Who would he join on that list?
Here’s a complete history of WVU players to play in a Super Bowl, in the order that they played in it.
Super Bowl II, 1966 season — Green Bay Packers vs. Oakland Raiders
Former WVU tight end Ken Herock played in 12 games that season for the AFL Champion Raiders. He wasn’t featured, however, in Oakland’s Super Bowl game plan, and the Raiders fell 33-14. Herock was later inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
Super Bowl V, 1970 season — Baltimore Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys
WVU Sports Hall of Famer Chuck Howley made history in Super Bowl V. By intercepting two passes, he became the first player in the game’s young history to win MVP honors despite being on the losing team. He is still the only player in Super Bowl history to have that distinction, and later had his number retired by WVU.
Super Bowl VI, 1971 season — Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins
A year later, Howley won his first Super Bowl trophy. He came up with another interception, which he returned for 41 yards, and also recovered a fumble. Howley and the Cowboys defeated fellow former Mountaineer Dale Farley, who played in just four games with Miami in his rookie season that year. With the win, Howley became the first former WVU football player to become a Super Bowl champion.
Super Bowl XVI, 1981 season — San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It took 10 years for another former Mountaineer to win a Super Bowl title. Rookie running back Walt Easley did so at the start of the San Francisco 49ers dynastic run in the ’80s and ’90s. Despite appearing in 12 games for the 49ers that season, Easley was not featured in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XVII, 1982 season — Washington vs. Miami Dolphins
West Virginia University graduate and Martinsburg, West Virginia native Fulton Walker made history on January 30, 1983. In the second quarter, with the game tied 10-10, Walker returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, becoming the first player to score on a kickoff return in Super Bowl history.
Super Bowl XIX, 1984 season — San Francisco 49ers vs. Miami Dolphins
For the second time in three years, Walker and the Dolphins came up short in the Super Bowl. Walker returned four kicks and two punts, but the 49ers special teams unit kept him in check for the duration of the game.
Super Bowl XXI, 1986 season — New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos
Backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler wouldn’t be called into action in this Super Bowl. But he did earn his first Super Bowl ring that night in the Rose Bowl stadium. Hostetler, of course, would later be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
Super Bowl XXII, 1987 season — Washington vs. Denver Broncos
Rookie linebacker Matt Smith probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the outcome of this Super Bowl had he played. The Washington offense lit up the Broncos defense for 42 points. Smith, however, was on a team that made it to the Super Bowl in his one and only season in the NFL.
Super Bowl XXIII, 1988 season — San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Former Mountaineer defensive lineman David Grant made it to the final game of the NFL season in his first year in the National Football League. The only issue? He and the Bengals ran into a dynasty. Grant came up with a pair of tackles, and sacked legendary quarterback Joe Montana. But he also became the second WVU alum that decade to be on a Bengals team that lost to the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXV, 1990 season — New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills
Three West Virginia alums suited up for Super Bowl 25. Jeff Hostetler led the way for the Giants, replacing the injured Phil Simms, who went down with a broken bone in his foot against these same Bills in the regular season. Hostetler completed 20 of 32 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Also standing on the Giants sideline was former WVU lineman Mike Fox.
Standing on the other sideline in Super Bowl XXV was the formidable Darryl Talley. Talley, playing his first of four straight Super Bowls, recorded one tackle in the game.
Super Bowl XXVI, 1991 season — Washington vs. Buffalo Bills
For the second consecutive season, three former Mountaineers were playing in the Super Bowl. And as luck would have it, two were on the winning team once again.
Playing in just his second season in the NFL, Alvoid Mays recorded two total tackles and a sack in Super Bowl XXVI. He was joined by fellow former Mountaineer Travis Curtis on the Washington sideline. Across the field was Talley, who 30 years later would have his number retired by West Virginia. Talley recorded four total tackles, but the Bills came up short, once again.
Super Bowl XXVII, 1992 season — Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills
Darryl Talley came up with two more tackles in the Super Bowl, bringing his career total in the big game to seven. But when the game was over, he and the Bills were still searching for that elusive Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl XXVIII, 1993 season — Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills
It was closer this time, but the end result was still the same. Talley and the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls, but came up empty. Talley recorded a game-high eight tackles in his final Super Bowl appearance.
Super Bowl XXX, 1995 season — Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Five-year veteran defensive back Alvoid Mays was in the Super Bowl for the second time in his career, this time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mays, however, was inactive for the first two rounds of the postseason, and didn’t play in Super Bowl XXX, which Pittsburgh ultimately lost by 10 points.
Super Bowl XXXI, 1996 season — Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots
Rookie tight end Lovett Purnell was on the Patriots sideline in this game. He didn’t log any playing time, however, as New England fell to Green Bay.
Super Bowl XXXIV, 1999 season — St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans
Former Mountaineer John Thornton started three games in his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans. Thornton and Tennessee made it to the Super Bowl, but came up just short against the Rams, then dubbed the Greatest Show on Turf. Thornton, who is a WVU Sports Hall of Famer, recorded one tackle in the game.
Super Bowl XXXVI, 2001 season — New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
Veteran offensive lineman Mike Compton had been in the league for eight years before finally reaching the Super Bowl. Compton started every game for New England that season, and was at left guard for Tom Brady against the Rams. Compton, a WVU Sports Hall of Fame inductee, got his first of two rings in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Super Bowl XXXVII, 2002 season — Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders
The 2002 Oakland Raiders featured a pair of former WVU football players – James Jett and Jerry Porter. While Jett wasn’t featured on Super Bowl Sunday, Porter did play a role that day for Oakland. He caught four passes for 62 yards, and was on the receiving end of the first Raiders touchdown of the game. Unfortunately for them, the Raiders were down by 31 when he caught the 39 yard pass.
Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2003 season — New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers
Mike Compton went down early in the season with an injury, meaning that Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun was the only active former WVU player on the field for Super Bowl 38. Even without Compton in front of him, Brady and the Pats won their second Lombardi Trophy in three seasons. Sauerbrun averaged 44.3 yards per punt, doing all he could to help Carolina in the field position battle.
Super Bowl XL, 2005 season — Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Mike Logan was in his eighth of nine seasons in the NFL. The former WVU defensive back was on a Steelers roster that made a run to the Super Bowl. Logan played in all four postseason games that year, and got to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl XLIV, 2009 season — New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts
Pat McAfee was the first player to touch the ball in Super Bowl 44. He kicked off three times in the first quarter, punted twice in the second quarter, and then kicked off midway through the third. He didn’t kick again the rest of the game. New Orleans took over in the second half, keeping McAfee and the Colts off the podium.
Super Bowl XLV, 2010 season — Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Another WVU alum came out on the losing end of the Super Bowl the following year, as well. This time it was defensive back Ryan Mundy, who did come up with a tackle on special teams in the second quarter.
Super Bowl XLVIII, 2013 season — Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos
Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce! On February 2, 2014, Bruce Irvin became a Super Bowl champion. Irvin came up with two tackles in the game, and earned the 11th Super Bowl title for a former West Virginia player.
Super Bowl XLIX, 2014 season — New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
Irvin and the Seahawks were back in the Super Bowl a year later. Irvin recorded two total tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, and a pair of QB hits. An interesting play call on the final play of the game kept Seattle from repeating as champions. Irvin made history in this game by, unfortunately, becoming the first player ever to be ejected from the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LII, 2017 season — Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots
For the first time in NFL history, four West Virginia Mountaineers were on the sidelines during the Super Bowl. All four were members of the Philadelphia Eagles, who defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Najee Goode came up with a pair of tackles on special teams. Rasul Douglas and Shelton Gibson also entered the game for Philly as part of the special teams unit. Wendell Smallwood didn’t play in the game, but was part of the Eagles practice squad.
In total, former West Virginia University football players are 15-20 in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET from SoFi Stadium near Los Angeles.