It’s a lower total than usual for former California high school players in the Super Bowl, but the state still ranks first in the nation since Texas and Florida also are lower than usual. With QB Cam Newton leading the way, Georgia probably has its best year ever and almost ties the Golden State.
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After one of the highest totals of California players in the Super Bowl with 22 from two years ago and then still a solid total of 15 from last year, the state’s number of former high school players in this year’s football extravaganza has dipped to 12.
Still, there’s no other state in the nation with a higher total, as the annual Cal-Hi Sports survey of Super Bowl players and where they went to high school reveals.
Probably the most interesting aspect of this year’s survey is the high number of players from Georgia. The Peach State beats both Florida and Texas this time and may have its highest-ever total of 11, just one behind California.
Georgia’s contingent is a super strong group too, led by Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton, who is from Westlake High of the Atlanta area. Six others from the Panthers’ roster also are from Georgia high schools, meaning that calling them the Georgia Panthers instead of the Carolina Panthers isn’t too far-fetched.
Most of the California players in this year’s Super Bowl are on the Denver Broncos’ active roster. That’s a group of eight led by running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and hard-hitting safety T.J. Ward.
The California total for the Broncos also could have been much higher due to injuries. Three players from the Broncos who all played in the Super Bowl loss two years ago to the Seattle Seahawks are now all on injured reserve – DB Omar Bolden (Ontario Colony), OL Ryan Clardy (Rialto Eisenhower) and OL Ty Sambraillo (Watsonville St. Francis CCC).
Three players from the Panthers’ roster on injured reserve also are from California – DB Bene Benwikere (Gardena Serra), OL Nate Chandler (San Diego Mira Mesa) and OL Amini Silatolu (Tracy West).
CALIFORNIA SUPER BOWL ALUMNI 2015
Note: Totals don’t include head coaches but we like to list them as well.
(All players listed in alphabetical order)
DE Jared Allen (Los Gatos)
One of the top pass rushers for sacks in NFL history (primarily for his years with the Minnesota Vikings), Allen hopes to collect his first Super Bowl ring with the Panthers. He first attended Live Oak of Morgan Hill, but transferred to Los Gatos High for his senior year. He was his league’s defensive player of the year, but college offers were scarce and wound up at Idaho State.
RB C.J. Anderson (Bethel, Vallejo)
He scored the Broncos’ winning TD in overtime on a 48-yard run when they ended the New England Patriots’ hopes for a perfect season and then had the go-ahead TD in a 20-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Denver’s first playoff game. Anderson was in the middle of a tremendously talented crop of running backs when he was at Cal and has emerged in the last two seasons as a top-flight NFL running back.
OL Sam Brenner (Oceanside)
An all-state honoree as a lineman when he played for the Pirates, Brenner is just the latest in a long line of players from Oside who’ve made it to the Super Bowl. The list includes the late, great Junior Seau (Chargers, Patriots) and Willie Buchanon (Packers).
LS Aaron Brewer (Troy, Fullerton)
He snapped for the Broncos when they appeared in Super Bowl 48 and has snapped in every game the Broncos have played for four straight years. In addition to snapping, Brewer also was an all-league linebacker when he played at Troy.
LB Todd Davis (Paraclete, Lancaster)
While playing for the Spirits, we remember Davis well since he was chosen to our all-state small schools first team with 119 tackles and three sacks. He wasn’t a huge recruit, but ended up at Sacramento State, had a great career there and moved up from the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad to their active roster last season. He was picked up by the Broncos later that season.
TE Ed Dickson (Bellflower)
He’s been in the Super Bowl before as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. At Bellflower, he was known as one of the state’s top grid-hoopers. He also starred on both offense and defense, leading his team in receiving yards and sacks during his senior season.
TE Virgil Green (Tulare)
On a team with Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis, Green doesn’t catch too many passes as a Broncos’ tight end, but he’s been a reliable blocker and does many things his coaches appreciate. Green was a four-year varsity performer at Tulare in both football and track and once caught 13 passes for 245 yards and four TDs in one game.
RB Ronnie Hillman (La Habra)
We remember Hillman’s final game for the Highlanders at Anaheim Stadium in the CIF Southern Section finals. As a senior, he also had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and was all-state medium schools. He later went to college at San Diego State and was picked by the Broncos in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
DE Malik Jackson (Birmingham, Lake Balboa)
Along with twin brother Marquis, Malik was the Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2007 for the CIF L.A. City Section. They helped Birmingham (along with Mr. Football State POY Milton Knox) go 13-1 and win the section title but lost out in a close call to Corona Centennial for the right to play Concord De La Salle in the CIF Open Division state bowl game. There wasn’t even a regional game that season for the Patriots to be selected to play in. Malik later went to both USC and Tennessee before heading to the Broncos in the NFL.
C Ryan Kalil (Servite, Anaheim)
Since he’s been a member of the Panthers’ offensive line after having a celebrated career at USC, Kalil has become one of the top centers in the NFL. He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl five times. His younger brother, Matt, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, has also been to the Pro Bowl and if he can stay healthy also can be among the top offensive linemen in the league.
LB Shaq Thompson (Grant, Sacramento)
Just four years ago, Shaq had just signed a letter of intent with Washington after switching from an earlier commitment to Cal. He of course ranks as one the top multi-purpose players we’ve ever seen from a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section school. Shaq was our 2010 State Junior of the Year for leading the Pacers as a running back, defensive back and kick returner. He was used in a myriad of ways in college as well, but has added enough size to become a very effective linebacker already in the NFL.
DB T.J. Ward (De La Salle, Concord)
If the Broncos win, Ward won’t be the first former Spartan to get a Super Bowl ring. Aaron Taylor earned one for the Green Bay Packers in 1997 while Amani Toomer got one for the New York Giants in 2007. Ward actually didn’t play all that much at De La Salle, but was a member of the 2003 team that stretched the school’s national record winning streak to 151 games. He developed into an NFL prospect later on at Oregon.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera (Seaside)
Rivera, a teammate at Cal of former Cal-Hi Sports publisher Andy Bark, is hoping to follow in the path of Sanger’s Tom Flores on two fronts. If Carolina wins, Rivera would not only become the second Hispanic head coach other than Flores to lead a team to a Super Bowl title but he’d also tie Flores’ accomplishment of being a player and a head coach to earn world championships. Flores did it as a back-up QB for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969 and then later won twice as a head coach for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. Rivera was a linebacker for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.