The University of Arizona has never seen its football team compete for a national championship. This upcoming Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots will be as close as it gets.
The two biggest success stories to come out of the Wildcats’ football program in recent years are highlighting the Super Bowl on opposite ends. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski are two players that were arguably the most instrumental in bringing the Arizona football program out of the dark, and now will be facing each other for the biggest prize in American sports.
This season Foles finished the job that Carson Wentz started and led the Eagles throughout the playoffs as the starting quarterback, but it was also finishing what he started in 2012.
After being selected by the Eagles in the third round in 2012, it only took Foles one year to put together a season in 2013 that would’ve made Philly fans think they were watching Tom Brady in midnight green, with 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Bruce Feldman even wrote a book about the quarterback position and made Foles the cover man.
Foles lost his starting job to injury in 2014, got traded to St. Louis and played so poorly the Rams left town in 2015. Then Foles spent a year with his original head coach, Andy Reid, in Kansas City in 2016. However, before rejoining Reid with the Chiefs, Foles lost some of his love for the game and almost retired to become a pastor.
”I want to be a pastor in a high school,” Foles said during Thursday’s press session. “It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts.”
One could say it was divine intervention that he remained in football, returned to Philly, took over for the injured Wentz and led the Eagles to possibly their first Super Bowl championship.
”It took a lot more faith to come back and play than it would’ve to go in the other direction,” Foles said. “Either way would’ve been fine. Either way, I would’ve trusted in God. I would’ve done something else and glorified God in that instance.”
As for Gronkowski, this is a Goliath if there ever was one. All he has ever done since being drafted by the Patriots in 2010 is dominate. In his eight-year career in the NFL, Gronk has snagged 474 receptions for 7,179 yards and 76 touchdowns, which are Hall of Fame numbers for a tight end. Since being drafted, the Patriots have won no fewer than 12 games a season.
And it was announced Thursday that the Gronkinator has cleared concussion protocol and is ready to go spike footballs in the end zone.
When I say the U of A is the winner of the Super Bowl, I also mean former head coach Mike Stoops. While the best the Wildcats got out of his tenure was a season in which ESPN College GameDay graced the mall and ended with an embarrassing shutout loss to Nebraska in the Holliday Bowl, it’s become abundantly clear that the legacy of Stoops is in the NFL, with a total of 22 players he put in the league (even David Douglas made it onto an NFL field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012).
Lest we forget Marquis Flowers, who spent his first three seasons as a reserve for the Cincinnati Bengals only to be traded to New England for a seventh round pick only to be in the Super Bowl as a key contributor on the defense.
So this Sunday will be a celebration for Tucson no matter the victor.