After the worst year ever for Super Bowl alums in 2021 with six, it’s a much better, more normal showing for the Golden State in 2022 as we counted 14 former California high school players on the most updated active rosters for the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals heading into Sunday’s matchup. It’s one of the best years ever for Texas, however, so it will be second-most counting all players from the nation plus two from Canada.
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With the Super Bowl returning to the Los Angeles area for the first time in 29 years, how cool is it that the oldest high school in Los Angeles has the rare distinction of having not one but two former players in this year’s game?
Loyola of L.A. was founded in 1865 and is located near downtown. SoFi Stadium, the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the host L.A. Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, is located in Inglewood, but many Super Bowl activities are being held not far from the Loyola campus.
According to longtime Cubs’ public relations contributor Patrick Jacobs, there are currently four players from Loyola now in the NFL. It just so happens that two of them are playing for the Rams — DB David Long Jr. and offensive lineman Coleman Shelton.
While that is a rare occurrence, the Super Bowl has been held 55 times previously and it’s not that unique. In fact, the last time the Rams played in the Super Bowl, in 2019 in a loss to the New England Patriots, they had two players from the same high school. That was receiver Brandin Cooks and running back Justin Davis, who are both from Lincoln High of Stockton.
There also have been six other times according to our all-time Super Bowl alumni files on Cal-Hi Sports in which there have been two from the same school playing in it. The last time it happened prior to Cooks and Davis was in 2014 for Colony High of Ontario with defensive back Omar Bolden (Patriots) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (Seahawks). The first time it happened was in 1973 for Compton High with receiver Roy Jefferson (Redskins) and tight end Marv Fleming (Dolphins). The others: Los Angeles High in 1976 for Cal Peterson (Cowboys) and Jimmy Allen (Steelers); Crescenta Valley of La Crescenta in 1989 for defensive back Tom Holmoe (49ers) and back-up quarterback Mike Norseth (Bengals); and Berkeley High in 2002 for defensive back Je’Rod Cherry (Patriots) and defensive lineman Chidi Ahanotou (Rams).
We should note that those duos are all based on active rosters prior to the game and do not count practice squads. Former 2014 Mr. Football State Player of the Year Jake Browning of Folsom is on the Bengals’ practice team. His former Folsom teammate, tackle Jonah Williams, starts for the Bengals and will be among those having to deal with the Rams’ dominant defensive line.
CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL
SUPER BOWL ALUMS (2022)
(Oak Grove, San Jose) DB Bengals
From the same school in which Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Holmgren began his coaching career, Awuzie is the son of Nigerian immigrants who was a three-sport standout in high school. The University of Colorado product is in his fifth NFL season after playing for four years with the Dallas Cowboys.
(San Marcos) DB Rams
After suffering a broken ankle during the 2020 season, Burgess has come back for a solid 2021. He was a third round pick in the 2020 draft out of Utah.
(Helix, La Mesa) DB Bengals
By Davis getting into a Super Bowl, he represents the sixth from Helix to be on a Super Bowl roster going back to the first one. According to our files, that ties Lincoln of San Diego for the most from a CIF San Diego Section school and is just one off the state lead currently co-owned by L.A. Crenshaw and L.A. Dorsey. Davis is a fifth-year pro out of Utah State who worked his way up off of the practice squad during the 2020 season.
(Summit, Fontana) DB Rams
He has been reported as setting an Inland Empire record in 2012 for career interceptions with 22. That total is just off the mark it takes of 23 to get up onto the all-time state list. Deayon had 10 of his career interceptions in 2011 as a junior, which also was a season in which Summit won the CIFSS Eastern Division title.
(La Habra) DL Rams
A lot of the Rams from their last Super Bowl appearance in 2019 are no longer on the team (example Jared Goff & Brandin Cooks), but one of the Californians back is Gaines. He was a second-team all-state overall defensive line selection when he played at La Habra and has gone on to have a solid NFL career for himself.
(Grant, Sacramento) DB Bengals
One of four Grant Pacers currently in the NFL, Trayvon has come up from the practice squad to earn a full-time roster spot in his third season with the team. Henderson scored his first NFL TD last month with a 29-yard fumble return TD in a game against the Cleveland Browns.
(Hart, Newhall) WR Bengals
Back-up wideout is well known to us for all of the state record lists he’s on for his stellar four-year career at Hart from 2011 to 2014. Trent is still the state record holder for career yards with 5,268. With state career passing record holder Jake Browning of Folsom listed as the team’s No. 3 QB, there’s probably been some hookups between Irwin and Browning on the Bengals’ practice field that would have been great to see.
David Long Jr.
(Loyola, Los Angeles) DB Rams
He and Rams’ teammate Coleman Shelton are the first two from Loyola to make it into a Super Bowl. Long, who scored a touchdown off a batted ball against Arizona in the team’s wild card weekend playoff win vs. Arizona, was an All-Big 10 corner at Michigan before being drafted by Los Angeles. He plays a lot and ranks sixth on the team in solo tackles.
(Freedom, Oakley) RB Bengals
When Joe was a senior at Freedom in 2013 and was wrapping up an all-state career with more than 4,200 yards and 57 rushing TDs, there was a game played against league rival Antioch, which already was getting eye-opening performances from freshman Najee Harris. Mixon’s team won, 28-27, but it was sophomore QB Joe Sweeney who led the with 343 yards passing and three TDs. Mixon had 52 yards rushing (1 TD) while Harris had 92 yards (1 TD). Mixon could be a huge factor on Sundays catching screen passes to help diminish the impact of the Rams’ pass rush. He’s one of the top RBs in the league and he’s only 26.
(Paloma Valley, Menifee) LS Rams
We don’t have the research but it seems like a high number of NFL teams have a long-snapper close to home. Orzech not only went to Paloma Valley, but he’s the first player from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa who will play in the Super Bowl.
(Loyola, Los Angeles) OL Rams
A Loyola player three years before David Long Jr. who was a senior during 2012 season, Shelton has started twice in the line this season. He went to college at Washington where he played every offensive line position.
(Buena Park) DL Bengals
The 345-pound tackle has been off and on the Bengals’ roster for the last few years. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID. Tupou played his college ball at Colorado, then joined the Bengals as an undrafted free agent.
(Alta Loma) DB Rams
Due to to injuries to other players, Weddle came out of retirement to join the Rams’ defense and has become one of the team’s leading tacklers. Much of his 13 previous seasons came with the San Diego Chargers, but he also played for the Rams and Baltimore Ravens. Weddle, who led the team in tackles with nine in the NFC Championship, had never made to the Super Bowl until now.
(Folsom) OL Bengals
He was a junior mauler up front on Folsom’s legendary 2014 team that went 16-0, set a national record for scoring points, won 68-7 over Oceanside in the CIF D1 state final and never got to prove just how great of a team it was since De La Salle won the Open Division state title and had rolled over the Bulldogs in 2012 and 2013. Jonah also still ranks as one of the best high school OLs we’ve ever seen. He has successfully come back this season after injuries derailed the start of his NFL career.
More Fun Facts:
Two players on the Rams’ current list of those on injured reserve were on their roster for the Super Bowl three years ago — WR Robert Woods from Serra of Gardena and TE Johnny Mundt from Central Catholic of Modesto. Woods went out with a knee injury midway through the regular season. If that hadn’t happened, the Rams probably would not have traded for Odell Beckham Jr.
Both California and Texas were counted with six Super Bowl alums last year. California’s total of 14 is a major improvement, but Texas was counted with 17 this time. It’s also a great group of Texas star players, including QB Matthew Stafford (same high school in Dallas, Highland Park, as L.A. Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw) plus DL Von Miller and OL Andrew Whitworth (all for the Rams). We met Matthew Stafford once when he was a college counselor at an Elite 11 QB camp. He thanked us for naming him as National Player of the Year as part of the Student Sports/EA Sports All-American team we helped put together in the late 2000s.
Florida was counted with same number as last year (nine). It’s just that last year that was better than California and Texas and this year it’s third. Georgia was counted with eight.
Neither of the two head coaches, Sean McVay of the Rams and Zac Taylor of the Bengals, are from California. The state had the winning coach, Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs, two years ago. He’s from Marshall of Los Angeles.