Digging deeper into Purdue's unbelievable 17-year Super Bowl streak
These days, there aren’t many titles Purdue football can claim. A 6-30 mark in three years (2-22 in B1G play) doesn’t exactly scream “NFL factory.”
But believe it or not, Purdue can claim something that no other college team besides Notre Dame can.
With Kawann Short’s Carolina Panthers winning the NFC Championship game, it marked the 17th straight year in which the Boilers had a player in the Super Bowl. That streak is tied with Notre Dame as the longest of any team in college football.
Up until this year, that title had belonged to Nebraska. But that streak just came to an end at 22 years.
So now, it’s not Alabama, Miami or Ohio State. It’s Notre Dame and Purdue.
Before continuing, there’s one point worth noting. The streak does include players on injured reserve but not players on the practice squad or futures roster. That’s why former Nebraska linebacker Zaire Anderson does not count this year for the Broncos.
There was a bit of a discrepancy with the legitimacy of Purdue’s streak because in 2011, the lone representative was Mike Neal. The former Boilermaker defensive lineman only played in 79 snaps for the Packers that season before he was placed on injured reserve. Technically, he wasn’t on the active Super Bowl roster.
However, to those Nebraska fans crying foul, the same thing happened with the Huskers in 2007 when safety Mike Brown was the team’s lone representative. He, like Neal, suffered a season-ending injury and was on injured reserve for the Super Bowl.
For argument’s sake, let’s say both schools still had their streaks intact.
But let’s get back to Purdue. Drew Brees, Mike Alstott and Rod Woodson are the household names. If Short continues his trajectory, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes one, as well.
Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of the Purdue players that have played in the Super Bowl since the turn of the century.
|YEAR||PURDUE PLAYERS||WINNING TEAM|
|2000||Jeff Zgonina* (Rams); Steve Jackson (Titans)||Rams|
|2001||Rod Woodson* (Ravens)||Ravens|
|2002||Matt Light*, David Nugent* (Patriots); Jeff Zgonina (Rams)||Patriots|
|2003||Mike Alstott* (Buccaneers), Woodson (Raiders)||Buccaneers|
|2004||Light*, Rosevelt Colvin*, Brandon Gorin*, Gene Mruczkowski* (Patriots)||Patriots|
|2005||Light*, Colvin*, Gorin*, Mruczkowski* (Patriots); Ian Allen (Eagles)||Patriots|
|2006||Chukky Okobi* (Steelers); Craig Terrill, Niko Koutouvides (Seahawks)||Steelers|
|2007||Gilbert Gardner*, John Standeford* (Colts); Kyle Orton (Chicago Bears)||Colts|
|2008||Light, Colvin (Patriots)||Giants|
|2009||Chike Okeafor (Cardinals)||Steelers|
|2010||Drew Brees* (Saints)||Saints|
|2011||Mike Neal* (Packers)||Packers|
|2012||Light, Koutouvides, Rob Ninkovich (Patriots)||Giants|
|2013||Benard Pollard* (Ravens)||Ravens|
|2014||Shaun Phillips (Denver Broncos); Cliff Avril* (Seahawks)||Seahawks|
|2015||Ninkovich* (Patriots); Avril (Seahawks)||Patriots|
|2016||Kawann Short (Panthers)||????|
*denotes they played on winning team
By the Numbers:
- 25 different Purdue players in last 17 Super Bowls
- 11 Super Bowls have had multiple Boilermakers
- Most Purdue players in one Super Bowl was five (2005)
- Most Purdue Super Bowl winners in one Super Bowl was four (2005)
- 13 of 16 Super Bowls resulted in Boilermaker on winning team
- 15 of 17 years have had Purdue player getting first Super Bowl experience
Each of the first eight years of the streak resulted in a Purdue player on the winning team. That came to an end in 2008 because of David Tyree’s miracle helmet catch. In 2009, the same thing happened because of Santonio Holmes’ toe-tapping, game-winning touchdown grab.
And the only other time during the 17 years a Purdue player wasn’t on the winning side was in 2012, when Rob Gronkowski nearly hauled in a Hail Mary that would’ve given the Patriots the victory.
That means three of the most memorable Super Bowl catches/non-catches ever were the only thing preventing Purdue’s streak from being even more amazing.
But despite the factory of quarterbacks Purdue churned out in the first decade of the 21st century, Brees was the only one to start in a Super Bowl. He’s also the only former Boiler to have earned Super Bowl MVP honors during the 17-year period.
He and Mike Alstott have accounted for the only Purdue touchdowns during the streak. On the defensive side, Rob Ninkovich has the only sack (1.5 in two games) and Chike Okeafor had the most tackles in a game with six. Short has a chance to overtake both of those marks, and he could also become the first Boilermaker to force a turnover during that stretch.
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Who knows? Maybe this is the first of several Super Bowl appearances for Short, which would keep the streak alive. That remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen if Purdue will outlast Notre Dame and hold the title by itself. There are currently 14 Purdue players on 14 different NFL teams. The odds are favorable — but not a lock — for it to continue. Notre Dame has 31 active players in the NFL, making the Irish the more likely pick.
The odds were also in Nebraska’s favor with players on 18 different NFL teams. But for the first time since the mid-1990s, that didn’t work out, not that anyone could’ve predicted that.
Perhaps NFL teams should just follow the wise words of former Purdue linebacker Rosevelt Colvin.
— Rosevelt Colvin (@rcolvin3) January 26, 2016