Jan. 19, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Super Bowl? More like Badgers Bowl.
With the Denver Broncos' 26-16 win over New England in the AFC Championship Game and the Seattle Seahawks' 23-17 triumph over rival San Francisco for the NFC title Sunday, four former Wisconsin football players will be battling for the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 2.
Denver rookie RB Montee Ball will face a former teammate in second-year Seattle QB Russell Wilson and another pair of UW alums in Chris Maragos and O'Brien Schofield when Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Badgers ties don't stop with the four players on the field, either. Former Wisconsin QB Darrell Bevell calls the plays as Seattle's offensive coordinator.
Wilson -- who completed 16 of 25 passes for 215 yards -- was key to Seattle's dramatic win over the 49ers, with his 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on fourth down giving the Seahawks their first lead of the game just over a minute into the fourth quarter.
The play called to mind Wilson's fourth-down heroics in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, when he hit Jeff Duckworth on a 36-yard completion that set up the go-ahead touchdown with 3:45 to play.
Of course, it was Ball that ran in that 7-yard score to secure the second of three straight Big Ten titles for the Badgers.
On Sunday, Ball sealed Denver's trip to the Super Bowl when he converted a first down on a 5-yard run that allowed the Broncos to run out the clock. He finished with 43 rushing yards on 12 carries while also catching three passes for 13 yards.
With the additions of Ball, Maragos, Schofield and Wilson, a total of 26 former Badgers have been on the roster of a team playing in the Super Bowl.
UW's four representatives also mark the largest contingent of former Badgers in a Super Bowl. That number was previously three, with Ron Dayne, Derek Engler and Pete Monty all members of the New York Giants' 2001 Super Bowl team.
This year's game will also mark the seventh time UW has been represented on both Super Bowl teams. The last time that happened was when Jim Sorgi suited up for Indianapolis to face off against Jonathan Casillas' New Orleans Saints in 2009.
It was just over 24 months ago that Ball and Wilson sat side by side and addressed the media after time ran out on the Badgers' attempt to score in the final seconds against Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl Game.
Wilson summed up his season with the Badgers by saying, "Every single moment has been truly special. To lose the way we did, it's only going to make me stronger in the future. It's going to help me figure out something else, maybe, down the road. Maybe win a Super Bowl. You never know."
How's that for foreshadowing?
Now, two years later, both he and Ball will have their chance to win a Super Bowl.
You never know.