Another chapter will be written in Ohio State’s Super Bowl history tonight when four former Buckeye players will suit up for San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
The 49ers boast wideout Ted Ginn Jr., offensive lineman Alex Boone, linebacker Larry Grant and safety Donte Whitner on the squad, allowing San Fran to tie the OSU record for most players on one Super Bowl team. It previously happened in 1997 when four former Buckeyes were on the New England Patriots squad that fell to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI.
These Buckeyes are more than just roster filler, as well. After a star-crossed Buckeye career that included starts in four straight seasons from 2005-08, Boone is the 49ers starting right guard. Ginn, who set a Big Ten record with four punt return touchdowns as a freshman in 2004 before making 15 career receiving scores at OSU, averaged 23.0 yards per kickoff return and 10.2 yards per punt return this season.
Whitner made 164 tackles in his Ohio State career, finishing with 87 tackles and three interceptions as a junior in 2005, before moving on to his NFL career. He’s continued being an impact player, as he’s third on San Francisco this year with 83 tackles while adding a pick-six. Grant, who played two years at OSU after coming in as a JUCO player, has six tackles for the 49ers this year.
There are certainly some interesting stories among the group, as well. Boone’s battle with alcoholism was widely known during his time at Ohio State, and The Columbus Dispatch looks into how the massive lineman has finally kicked the habit.
Ginn, meanwhile, went from Miami to San Francisco before settling in there as a return man. He talked to reporters this week, and the Akron Beacon Journal has a transcript.
Whitner has also resurrected his career in the Bay Area, becoming a key part of the team after a disappointing spell in Buffalo. The safety also turned heads this week when he came out in support of a potential gay teammate after fellow DB Chris Culliver spoke out against that hypothetical.
Also, Ginn and Whitner – both former stars at Cleveland Glenville – are playing for Ginn’s father, who currently is returning to health after a long-term scare, as detailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Last year, Ohio State was represented by Jake Ballard, but it was a bittersweet performance for the tight end who caught 38 passes a season ago for the New York Giants. Ballard caught two passes for 10 yards in his team’s victory but suffered a knee injury that was so severe that he was unable to play this season. He memorably was caught by cameras on the sideline testing his knee injury then crumpling to the ground in pain.
Offensive lineman Jim Cordle was also on the Giants roster but was not active for the game, while former OSU linebacker Pepper Johnson was on the staff of the New England Patriots.
The record for most Buckeyes in the game was set in 2000, when five former OSU players were on the rosters for the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans met.
In recent years, such players as Santonio Holmes and Mike Vrabel have helped increase the impact Ohio State has had on the country's biggest sporting event.
Holmes, then with the Steelers, was the MVP three seasons ago when Pittsburgh beat the Arizona Cardinals thanks to Holmes’ spectacular catch in the final minute. One of the most memorable in Super Bowl history, Holmes’ grab capped a day in which he had nine catches for 131 yards, the most ever for a former OSU player in the Super Bowl.
Vrabel is now an Ohio State assistant, but the linebacker's claim to fame in the Super Bowl actually came on the offensive side. The OSU letter winner from 1993-96 lined up as an extra tight end and caught touchdown passes in both Super Bowl XXXVII in the Patriots’ win against Carolina and Super Bowl XXXIX in the Pats’ triumph against Philadelphia.
Vrabel is still the Buckeye with the most Super Bowl rings, winning three during his Patriots career. He also is tied with defensive lineman Jim Marshall with the most appearances among Buckeyes in the Super Bowl with four. Marshall went 0-4, though, suiting up for the Minnesota Vikings.
In all, this will be the 35th Super Bowl of 47 with an Ohio State player involved on an active roster.
Holmes’ performance in 2009 served as the best for an OSU wideout in Super Bowl history, but it didn’t take long for the best rushing performance. Suiting up for the victorious New York Jets in their famous Super Bowl III upset of the Baltimore Colts, Matt Snell ran for 121 yards and a score. That edged the performance of Colts’ rusher Tom Matte, another Buckeye who had 116 rushing yards on the day on only 11 carries.
Meanwhile, only two Ohio State quarterbacks have reached a Super Bowl – Mike Tomczak and Joe Germaine. Neither Tomczak (1986, Chicago; 1996, Pittsburgh) nor Germaine (2000, St. Louis) threw a pass.
What follows is a list of all former Buckeyes to play in the Super Bowl on an active roster.
Super Bowl I (1967) – OT Jim Tyrer, Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl III (1969) – RB Tom Matte, Baltimore Colts; RB Matt Snell, New York Jets; OT Bob Vogel, Baltimore
Super Bowl IV (1970) – DE Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings; OT Jim Tyrer, Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl V (1971) – OT Bob Vogel, Baltimore Colts
Super Bowl VI (1972) – WR Paul Warfield, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl VII (1973) – WR Paul Warfield, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl VIII (1974) – DE Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings; WR Paul Warfield, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl IX (1975) – DE Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl XI (1977) – DB Neal Colzie, Oakland Raiders; DE Jim Marshall, Minnesota Vikings; S Jack Tatum, Oakland Raiders; WR Lenny Willis, Minnesota Vikings
Super Bowl XII (1978) – LB Randy Gradishar, Denver Broncos
Super Bowl XIV (1980) – LB Bob Brudzinski, Los Angeles Rams; OT Doug France, Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl XV (1981) – WR Morris Bradshaw, Oakland Raiders
Super Bowl XVI (1982) – RB Archie Griffin, Cincinnati Bengals; RB Pete Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals; DB Ray Griffin, Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl XVII (1983) – LB Bob Brudzinski, Miami Dolphins; P Tom Orosz, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl XIX (1985) – LB Bob Brudzinski, Miami Dolphins; TE John Frank, San Francisco 49ers; RB Pete Johnson, Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl XX (1986) – DB Shaun Gayle, Chicago Bears; QB Mike Tomczak, Chicago Bears
Super Bowl XXI (1987) – LB Pepper Johnson, New York Giants; OG William Roberts, New York Giants
Super Bowl XXIII (1989) – TE John Frank, San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XXV (1991) – LB Pepper Johnson, New York Giants; OG William Roberts, New York Giants
Super Bowl XXVI (1992) – OT Jim Lachey, Washington Redskins; OT Joe Staysniak, Buffalo Bills
Super Bowl XXX (1996) – QB Mike Tomczak, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XXXI (1997) – FB Keith Byars, New England Patriots; WR Terry Glenn, New England Patriots; OG William Roberts, New England Patriots; P Tom Tupa, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XXXIII (1999) – DB Tito Paul, Denver Broncos; DB William White, Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl XXXIV (2000) – RB Eddie George, Tennessee Titans; QB Joe Germaine, St. Louis Rams; OT Orlando Pace, St. Louis Rams; WR Chris Sanders, Tennessee Titans; LB Lorenzo Styles, St. Louis Rams
Super Bowl XXXV (2001) – RB Joe Montgomery, New York Giants
Super Bowl XXXVI (2002) – OT Orlando Pace, St. Louis Rams; DT Ryan Pickett, St. Louis Rams; LB Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XXXVII (2003) – TE Rickey Dudley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; P Tom Tupa, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004) – LB Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots; RB Nick Goings, Carolina Panthers
Super Bowl XXXIX (2005) – LB Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XLII (2008) – LB Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots
Super Bowl XLIII (2009) – WR Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XLIV (2010) – CB Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans Saints; DE Will Smith, New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl XLV (2011) – DB Will Allen, Pittsburgh Steelers; LB A.J. Hawk, Green Bay Packers; DL Ryan Pickett, Green Bay Packers; LB Matt Wilhelm, Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XLVI (2012) – TE Jake Ballard, New York Giants
Mike Wachsman assisted with the research of this story.