There were only five players from California high schools on the active rosters for this year’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. That is the lowest total counted since we’ve been doing these state-by-state counts over the past 30 years. We do a lot better looking at the two coaching staffs.
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Last year’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles was a strong one for California players with 14 players on the roster of the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. This year? Not so much. In fact, the total of just five (three for the Philadelphia Eagles and two for the Kansas City Chiefs) is the lowest for any Super Bowl ever played. It beats the record low total of six from just two years ago.
Does this mean that football talent is no longer coming from California like it once was? It’s definitely not as deep, but there are still many elite skill players coming from the state, especially when you look at projected top picks for the 2023 NFL Draft, led by Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Bryce Young and Rancho Cucamonga’s C.J. Stroud.
There’s only one school in the state this year with more than one Super Bowl alum and that would be Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills. The Trojans don’t have two players, but Eagles’ back-up quarterback Ian Book and Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen (who is interviewing for head coaching jobs) are both from the school.
The offensive coordinator when the Chiefs have the ball also is from the Golden State. Former Bishop Amat of La Puente running back Eric Bieniemy was in the same role in 2020 for Kansas City when it won the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. Andy Reid, the future Hall of Fame head coach of the Chiefs, also is from California and was recently inducted into the CIF Los Angeles City Section Hall of Fame. He is from Marshall of L.A. Yet one more notable coach from the state is Eagles’ special teams coordinator Michael Clay, who still ranks as one of the best linebackers we’ve ever seen in the CIF Central Coast Section. Clay is from Bellarmine Prep of San Jose.
Los Angeles Loyola’s feat of having two players in the Super Bowl was matched this year by Sprayberry High of Marietta, Ga. Both of the Sprayberry alums also could conceivably rush for touchdowns during the game since they are Trey Sermon of the Eagles and Jerick McKinnon of the Eagles.
It does seem like it would be almost impossible for one school to have two Super Bowl alums, but in addition to Loyola doing it last season with David Long and Coleman Shelton it has happened seven other times in the history of the Super Bowl for California schools dating back to 1967.
We should note that these totals are all based on active rosters prior to the game and do not count practice squads. A late injury also could change the numbers.
CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL
SUPER BOWL ALUMS (2023)
(Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) QB Eagles
We go far back with Ian since being impressed by him as a sophomore starting QB at Oak Ridge in 2013 in a game against Grant of Sacramento. It partially led to him being all-state sophomore. Ian also was first team all-state QB as a senior, then headed off to Notre Dame. He was starting for the fabled program in 2018 and finished up as the all-time leader for total wins by a QB with 31. He got one start as a back-up QB for the New Orleans Saints in 2021 due to COVID hitting the top two starters. He’s third on the Eagles’ depth chart as well behind Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew.
(Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) TE Eagles
There haven’t been many tight ends who also are highly recruited that had the type of totals that Grant had when he was catching passes for the Eagles in the late 2010s. In his senior year, he had 57 catches for 957 yards and eight TDs. He had 48 for 926 and nine as a junior. The four-star recruit played at Oklahoma as a transfer and in 2019 he was a teammate of current Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts.
(Edison, Huntington Beach) DB Eagles
While there is only five Super Bowl players from the state this year, one of them is a walk-on who didn’t sign a D1 letter of intent as a senior in high school. Epps is that guy this year and deserves extra attention and to serve as an inspiration to those seniors right now who did not sign a D1 offer or get heavily recruited. Epps also has a connection to another of those guys, Josh Allen, since both went to college at Wyoming. While Allen went to Wyoming after two years at at a JC, Epps went as a walk-on without the JC. Marcus wound up starting 50 games for the Cowboys and had 325 career interceptions with nine career interceptions. He’s been with the Eagles since the 2019 season and has been in on seven tackles so far this postseason.
(St. John Bosco, Bellflower) DB Chiefs
McDuffie getting to the Super Bowl is big news for the program that has been No. 1 in the state in 2013, 2016, 2019 and again last season. He’s the first one ever from Bosco to be on a Super Bowl roster. Trent was one of top players on defense from a Bosco team in 2018 that lost to Mater Dei in the CIFSS D1 championship after it beat the Monarchs earlier in the season. His next stop was the University of Washington where he developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. McDuffie almost had a pick six in one of Kansas City’s recent games, which would have been the first-ever TD scored by a Bosco alum in the NFL. We know many more Bosco alumni moments are coming soon, but that first TD is still waiting to happen.
(Long Beach Poly) WR Chiefs
One of the big questions heading into the Super Bowl is how much if any time will JuJu be able to play in the game. He’s been working through a knee injury and did not practice at all last week. He was an all-state standout for the Jackrabbits in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons and is regarded as one of the top WRs ever from a school known nationally for having top WRs. Smith-Schuster broke into the NFL with the Pittsburg Steelers after starring at USC. He had 111 catches for 1,426 yards and 11 TDs in the 2018 season. He missed most of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury, but came back for an AFC Wild-Card matchup vs the Chiefs and had five catches in a loss. Instead of re-signing again with the Steelers, Smith-Schuster decided to sign a similar one-year deal with Kansas City for this season.
More Fun Facts:
There are several states this year with more Super Bowl alums than California, but the most surprising is Mississippi. We believe this year’s total of eight from Mississippi is its highest for the Super Bowl ever, at least the highest since the years we’ve done the counting. Mississippi also has more alums this year than Florida’s total of seven, and is tied for the most with Texas and Georgia. Other states tied with California at five are Alabama, Ohio and Virginia. Some of those from Mississippi in this year’s Super Bowl include DL Chris Jones, WR A.J. Brown, DL Fletcher Cox and RB Kenneth Gainwell.
There’s a player from De La Salle in this year’s Super Bowl, but it’s De La Salle of Rochester, Mich. DL Mike Danna of the Chiefs is from that school.
While Christian McCaffrey from Valor Christian of Colorado didn’t make it into this year’s Super Bowl due to the 49ers losing to the Eagles in the NFC Championship, Christian Elliss of the same school, a linebacker, is in the game. Elliss plays for the Eagles.