If there’s a lesson to be learned from the New England Patriots, it’s that cheating definitely pays off.

And that is why I will be cheating in the creation of the inaugural Saturday Tradition all-time Big Ten Super Bowl team.

My original intent was to create a team of Big Ten alumni who played in the Super Bowl at every position. Other than long-snapper. Sorry, long-snappers.

That mission has been accomplished. But my initial goal — a full team of players who actually played football in the Big Ten — was a few positions short of coming to fruition. Thus, you will see the names of Penn State, Nebraska and Maryland players who never played a down of football in the Big Ten.

If you’re an absolutist, you might take issue with this.

So be it.

Big Ten membership is a living, breathing, changing entity. We have to adjust accordingly.

But that’s enough ado. Here’s the team, which has representation from every Big Ten program except Rutgers and Northwestern.


Quarterback — Tom Brady, Michigan

Let us begin with the most obvious starting point.

No player has appeared in more Super Bowls than Brady, who has played in 10 of the 57. Brady has also won more Super Bowls than any actual franchise — 6 with the Patriots and another 1 with the Buccaneers.

Backup quarterback — Bob Griese, Purdue

Griese, who led the Dolphins to back-to-back titles in 1972 and ’73, gets the nod over fellow Boilermakers Len Dawson and Drew Brees, who won 1 title apiece.

Reportedly, some fans who are calling in to talk radio want to start Griese over Brady because “he actually knows how to finish a perfect season.”

Running back — Franco Harris, Penn State

The Nittany Lions were an independent when Harris played there, but there’s no ignoring a guy who played in 4 Super Bowls — even if his most legendary moment didn’t actually take place during 1 of those title runs.

Harris averaged 88.5 rushing yards per game and scored 4 touchdowns in 4 Steelers Super Bowl wins.

Fullback — Roger Craig, Nebraska

For the 1st half of the Super Bowl Era, offenses lined up with 2 running backs. And some Big Ten teams are still doing it.

But Craig, a glaring omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was in many ways the prototype for a 2000s running back in Bill Walsh’s 1980s West Coast offense. Craig was equally likely to hurt you catching the ball as he was carrying it.

Craig’s performance in Super Bowl XXIII was a perfect example — 17 carries for 71 yards and 8 receptions for 101 yards.

He won 3 rings with the 49ers.

Wide receivers — Paul Warfield, Ohio State; Muhsin Muhammad, Michigan State

There are those who will see the fact that a 1963 Ohio State graduate being the team’s best receiver as a glaring indictment of Big Ten passing attacks. And though there’s a grain of truth there, Warfield is a legitimate Hall of Famer and a member of the NFL All-1970s Team.

Warfield didn’t score in 3 Super Bowl appearances but did win a pair of rings with Griese and the Dolphins.

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Muhammad might win you some bar-room trivia — his 85-yard touchdown against New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII is the longest reception in Super Bowl history. He had 4 catches for 140 yards for the Panthers in a losing cause.

Muhammad also had a touchdown for the Bears in a 29-17 loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

Slot receiver — Antwaan Randle El, Indiana

When our personnel package demands 3 receivers, Randle El gets the call.

Of course, his signature Super Bowl moment came doing the same thing he did at Indiana — throwing the ball. His 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward on a reverse wide receiver pass was a critical moment in Pittsburgh’s 21-10 win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

Randle El also caught 2 passes for 50 yards in the Steelers’ 31-25 loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Tight end — Dallas Clark, Iowa

Clark, a favored Peyton Manning target, had a combined 11 catches for 122 yards in the Colts’ Super Bowl appearances against the Bears and Saints.

Clark’s 7 catches for 86 yards led all receivers in Super Bowl XLIV.

Jumbo tight end — Mike Vrabel, Ohio State

Vrabel has more career Super Bowl touchdowns than Clark, Walter Payton and hundreds of players in the Hall of Fame.


Vrabel’s career numbers: 2 catches for 3 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Tackles — Jim Lachey, Ohio State; Orlando Pace, Ohio State

A 2nd-generation member of “The Hogs,” Lachey was an All-Pro in 1991 as the Redskins beat the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.

Pace was the anchor at left tackle for “The Greatest Show on Turf,” making sure Kurt Warner always had time to keep the St. Louis Rams offense humming. Pace and St. Louis appeared in 2 Super Bowls, beating the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. He is a member of the NFL’s All-2000s Team and a Hall of Famer.

Guards — Marshal Yanda, Iowa; William Roberts, Ohio State

Yanda was a Pro Bowl right guard for the Ravens in 2012, helping Baltimore win 3 playoff games and Super Bowl XLVII over the 49ers.

Roberts, a 1st-round pick of the Giants in 1984, had his lone Pro Bowl season in 1990 as New York upset San Francisco in the NFC title game and then edged the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Though the game came down to Scott Norwood’s missed field goal, the real story was the domination by New York’s offensive line. The Giants held the ball for 40 minutes, 33 seconds, setting a Super Bowl time of possession record.

Center — Mike Webster, Wisconsin

Webster, a rookie on Pittsburgh’s 1st Super Bowl winner, was on the Steelers’ roster for all 4 victories, though he didn’t start until his 3rd season.

Once he did, though, he became 1 of the most dominant players in the history of the position. Webster was a 5-time All-Pro who made both the All-1970s and All-1980s teams and spent 9 seasons as the Steelers’ offensive captain.


Defensive ends — Carl Eller, Minnesota; Bubba Smith, Michigan State

Eller was a 5-time All-Pro who anchored the Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters” defense alongside fellow Hall of Famer Alan Page. The ex-Gopher played in 4 Super Bowls with the Vikings.

Smith was a 2nd-team All-Pro for the Colts in 1968, when they infamously lost to the Jets in Super Bowl III. He was 1st team in 1971 when Baltimore beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.

Defensive tackles — Randy White, Maryland; Tim Krumrie, Wisconsin

White was drafted 2nd overall by the Cowboys out of Maryland in 1975 and proved a wise choice. White was named co-MVP of Dallas’ Super Bowl XII win over the Broncos, marking both the only time there have been co-MVPs and the only time a defensive tackle has won the award.

Krumrie’s lone All-Pro season was in 1988, when he anchored the Bengals defense to an appearance in Super Bowl XXIII.

Outside linebackers — Mike Vrabel, Ohio State; Jack Ham, Penn State

Here’s Vrabel where you actually expect to see him.

The former Buckeye won 3 rings with the Patriots in the 2000s and was a key piece in their 32-29 win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Vrabel finished with 6 tackles, 2 sacks and, yes, a touchdown catch. If Tom Brady hadn’t thrown for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns, there was an argument to be made for Vrabel as MVP.

Ham is 1 of 5 Hall of Famers on Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense, starting on all 4 Steelers Super Bowl winners in the 1970s. Ham is also considered a forefather of Penn State’s “Linebacker U” nickname that blossomed in the ’70s and beyond. He was the 2nd Penn State 1st-team All-American at the position.

Middle linebacker — Ray Nitschke, Illinois

Nitschke and fellow Fighting Illini Dick Butkus defined the middle linebacker position in the 1960s, turning it into the nucleus of the defense.

The difference is Nitschke and the Packers actually made Super Bowls while Butkus’ Bears failed to make the playoffs thanks to inferior quarterbacks. (Some things never change.)

Nitschke was retroactively credited with a sack in Super Bowl I and helped the Packers win the 1st 2 Super Bowls.

Cornerbacks — Herb Adderley, Michigan State; Ty Law, Michigan

Adderley was the NFL’s premier corner of the 1960s, also playing an integral role in Green Bay’s Super Bowl wins. Adderley’s 60-yard interception return against the Raiders in Super Bowl II was the 1st defensive touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Law joined him in the Hall of Fame 39 years after Adderley’s induction. Law appeared in 3 Super Bowls with the Patriots, winning 2 of them.

Law also matched Adderley in scoring a Super Bowl touchdown. His 47-yard interception return to give New England a 7-3 lead in Super Bowl XXXVI was a crucial turning point in the underdog Pats’ 20-17 win over the Rams, who entered as 14-point favorites.

Nickel — Tracy Porter, Indiana

Another Hoosier to put in the game when the formation calls for it.

Porter has 1 of the defining plays in Super Bowl history, taking a Peyton Manning pass 74 yards to the house to clinch the Saints’ 31-17 win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

That clutch moment gives Porter the nickel spot over Rutgers alum Devin McCourty, who has 3 rings with the Patriots but no Super Bowl takeaways.

Safeties — Rod Woodson, Purdue; Paul Krause, Iowa

Woodson was already long in the tooth by the time he got to Baltimore, but that didn’t stop him from having 1 of the best seasons of his career for 1 of the best defenses in NFL history.

Woodson was a Pro Bowler and 2nd-team All-Pro for the 2000 Ravens and had 6 tackles in their 34-7 win over the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. A couple years later, a 37-year-old Woodson got back to the Super Bowl with an All-Pro season for the Raiders.

Krause was the key to the back end of the Vikings’ “Purple People Eaters,” earning 3 All-Pro selections and playing in all 4 of Minnesota’s Super Bowls. With his team down 6-0, Krause intercepted Len Dawson for a potential game-changing moment in Super Bowl IV, but the Vikings offense did not take advantage in the eventual 23-7 defeat.


Kicker — Matt Bahr, Penn State

Matt edges out older brother Chris, though both kicked for a pair of Super Bowl champions.

The difference?

Matt made 5 field goals, including 1 as time expired, to lift the Giants to a 15-13 win over the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. New York went on to beat Buffalo, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV, where Bahr made 2 more field goals.

Punter — Tom Tupa, Ohio State

Tupa is 2nd in Super Bowl history with an average of 43.7 yards per punt (minimum 8 punts) in Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots and Buccaneers. He was also a trailblazer in paving the way for players to go from New England to Tampa.

Punt/kick returner — Desmond Howard, Michigan

There are 4 people to win both the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP, and Howard is 1 of them. He’s also the only 1 to be named MVP primarily for his work as a returner. Howard had 244 all-purpose yards, including a 99-yard kickoff return, in Green Bay’s Super Bowl XXXI win over New England.