For the 10th consecutive year, LSU will have at least one of its former players participate in the Super Bowl when the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Green Bay Packers in Dallas on Feb. 6.
In fact, Pittsburgh free safety Ryan Clark is an integral part of a Steelers’ defense that helped Pittsburgh defeat the New Year Jets in the AFC Championship Game this past Sunday, 24-19. Clark finished with four tackles, including three solo stops. His performance may not have met the standard he set during the regular season when he ranked fourth on the team in total tackles with 90, but it was good enough to support the Steelers’ winning effort.
Clark certainly will make a visible presence in Cowboy Stadium. The same might not be true of Green Bay’s LSU contingent. Three former Tigers serve as backups, most notably third-year quarterback Matt Flynn, who guided LSU to the 2007 BCS national championship.
Given the opportunity, Flynn might provide similar results for the Packers. It’s just that playing behind Aaron Rodgers hasn’t given Flynn a chance to see much action. Flynn gave indication as to his worth during the regular season last month when he started for the injured Rodgers against the New England Patriots.
Flynn completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns and an interception in a 31-27 loss. Flynn’s inexperience showed at times, but at least he would have been a credible replacement for Rodgers had Flynn been pressed into duty in last Sunday’s 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game.
The same can’t be said of the two Chicago backups who filled in for starter Jay Cutler, when the former Vanderbilt quarterback left the game with a knee injury.
As it was, Flynn spent the game in Rodgers’ shadow just as he has for most of his three-year NFL career. Likewise for Packer teammates and LSU alumni Quinn Johnson and Howard Green. Quinn Johnson, a two-year veteran, knows what it’s like to be a winner given that he was the Tigers’ starting fullback in 2007. In time, he might make his mark again in the NFL.
A journeyman career has taken Green, a Donaldsonville native, to six teams in seven years. The 340-pound nose tackle finds himself in the right place at the right time after Green Bay obtained him on waivers from the New York Jets in October.
Green has never experienced Clark’s professional success or Flynn and Johnson’s college glory, but that could all change next month with a Super Bowl championship ring.
Clark, and his cohorts, have other plans. During his nine-year career, including five with Pittsburgh, Clark has gained a reputation as one of the league’s hardest hitters. Those who saw him play at LSU from 1998-2000, can’t help but be surprised at the manner in which he blossomed.
Page 2 of 2 - They’re not alone. Clark wasn’t even drafted out of LSU despite starting his last 36 games and playing his final two years for Coach Nick Saban, whose NFL ties bolster the image of his players.
Clark signed with the New York Giants as a rookie free agent in 2002 and took it from there. He started for two years with the Washington Redskins before signing with Pittsburgh in 2004.
Chicago safety Craig Steltz longs for the day when he can perform like anything close to Clark. A former LSU All-American, Steltz was on the losing end in the NFC Championship Game, as was another ex-LSU All-American in backup offensive guard Herman Johnson, who was claimed from the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad late in the regular season.
In any event, a former LSU player soon will experience the ultimate in professional football. Either Pittsburgh will win its NFL-best seventh Super Bowl in its league-high eighth appearance, or Green Bay will claim the latest Super Bowl after winning the first two and one in between.
LSU has a vested interest in the outcome.