Big Ten: LaMarr Woodley

Big Ten all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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The BCS is dead. RIP. As we memorialize the BCS era throughout ESPN.com today, we're selecting All-BCS teams from each conference. As a reminder, the BCS era lasted from the 1998 season through the recently completed 2013 season. To narrow our selections a bit, players had to play at least two seasons in the BCS era to be eligible. Nebraska players are part of our list even though the Huskers played in the Big 12 until 2011.

Here's our Big Ten All-BCS team.

Coach: Jim Tressel, Ohio State -- Tressel led Ohio State to the 2002 national title, the Big Ten's only championship in the BCS era, as well as seven Big Ten titles (one vacated).

OFFENSE

QB: Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-2000) -- He led Purdue to the 2000 Big Ten championship and finished his career with league records for passing yards (11,792), touchdown passes (90), total offensive yards (12,693), completions (1,026), and attempts (1,678). Brees won the Maxwell Award in 2000.

RB: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99) -- The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner set the NCAA's career rushing record with 6,397 yards (not including bowl games). He won all the major national individual awards in 1999 and became the first player to repeat as Rose Bowl MVP.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMontee Ball had 39 TDs for Wisconsin in 2011.
RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (2009-2012) -- The man nicknamed "MoneyBall" tied Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season touchdowns record with 39 in 2011 and set the mark for career touchdowns with 83. He won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back in 2012.

WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04) -- The Big Ten's most recent Biletnikoff Award winner holds the league record for career touchdown receptions (39) and ranks fourth in career receiving yards (3,541). He's the only Big Ten receiver to record 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

WR: Lee Evans, Wisconsin (2000-03) -- Evans twice led the Big Ten in receiving yards, eclipsing 1,500 yards in 2001 before rebounding from an ACL tear to record 1,213 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2003.

TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa (1999-2002) -- Clark earned the John Mackey Award in 2002 after recording 43 receptions for 742 yards as Iowa went undefeated in the Big Ten.

OL: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05) -- One of the more decorated Big Ten linemen in the BCS era, Eslinger won the Outland Trophy in 2005. He was a two-time first-team All-America selection and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection for one of the nation's top rushing offenses.

OL: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2003-06) -- Another Outland Trophy winner (2006), Thomas earned unanimous consensus All-America honors that year. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in each of his final two seasons and was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

OL: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- In 1998, Raiola became the first Nebraska freshman offensive lineman to start a game in seven years. He went on to earn the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final two seasons and consensus first-team All-America honors in 2000.

OL: Robert Gallery, Iowa (1999-2003) -- Gallery claimed the Outland Trophy in 2003 as well as first-team All-America honors. He twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as the anchor of a nationally elite offensive line.

OL: Jake Long, Michigan (2003-07) -- Although Long didn't win the Outland, he twice earned consensus first-team All-America honors (unanimous selection in 2007) and twice earned Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors (beating out Thomas in 2006). Long was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.

DEFENSE

DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06) -- Woodley claimed the Rotary Lombardi Award in 2006 as the nation's top lineman. A first-team All-American that season, he finished his career with 10 forced fumbles, tied for seventh on the Big Ten's career list.

DE: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (2007-10) -- Unlike most of the men on this list, Kerrigan never played for any BCS bowl teams at Purdue but still had a remarkable career that ended with unanimous consensus first-team All-America honors in 2010. The Big Ten defensive player of the year tied the NCAA record for forced fumbles (14) and recorded 33.5 sacks and 57 tackles for loss.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- The most dominant defender in recent years finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2009 (should have been higher) and earned several awards, including the Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland. Suh finished his career with 24 sacks, 57 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 41 quarterback hurries.

DT: Devon Still, Penn State (2008-11) -- Penn State produced a string of outstanding defensive tackles including Still, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year in 2011. Still earned consensus first-team All-America honors after recording 17 tackles for loss.

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08) -- Laurinaitis won major national awards in each of his final three seasons, including the Nagurski Trophy in 2006. The two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year became just the third Ohio State player to earn consensus All-America honors in three seasons.

LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06) -- Posluszny is one of only two players (Pat Fitzgerald) to twice win the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender. He became the first Penn State linebacker to twice earn AP All-America honors.

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99) -- A freakishly athletic linebacker at Linebacker U., Arrington twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards as a junior in 1999. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.

CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000) -- Fletcher claimed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in 2000, won Big Ten defensive player of the year honors that year and was a three-time first-team all-conference selection. He's tied for fourth in league history with 21 career interceptions and holds the league record for interception return yards (459).

CB: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (2010-13) -- Dennard also claimed the Thorpe Award as he helped Michigan State to its first outright Big Ten title in 26 years and a Rose Bowl victory against Stanford. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection recorded 10 career interceptions and led the "No Fly Zone" Spartans secondary.

S: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota (1996-99) -- The only Big Ten safety to win the Thorpe Award, Carter also twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and earned unanimous All-America honors in 1999. He set the FBS record for career tackles by a defensive back with 528.

S: Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002) -- A three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Doss earned unanimous consensus All-America honors in 2002 as Ohio State won the national title.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Mike Nugent, Ohio State (2001-04) -- Nugent won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2004 and claimed consensus All-America honors in both 2002 and 2004. He holds the Big Ten record for consecutive made field goals with 24.

P: Brandon Fields, Michigan State (2003-06) -- His name is on the Big Ten's punter of the year award for a reason. Fields earned consensus All-America honors in 2004, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors three times and twice led the league in punting, tying for third in career average (45 ypp).

Returns: Ted Ginn, Ohio State (2004-06) and Steve Breaston, Michigan (2003-06) -- Ginn holds the Big Ten single-season records for kick return average (25.6 ypr) and career punt return touchdowns (6), while Breaston claims the league mark for career punt return yards (1,599) and is tied for third in punt return touchdowns (4).

It's tough enough putting together these teams for one season, much less 16 seasons. You can't please everyone, and many exceptional players didn't make the cut.

We decided to go with five offensive linemen rather than a center, two guards and two tackles, in order to recognize the best overall players in the trenches.

There was some debate for a second receiver alongside Michigan's Edwards, as the Big Ten hasn't exactly mass-produced superstars at the position. Several players had great seasons like Michigan State's Charles Rogers in 2002, but we put more stock into overall career output and went with Wisconsin's Evans, who led the league in receiving in 2001 and 2003.

Cornerback created some debate among Fletcher, Dennard and Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, also a Jim Thorpe Award winner. We faced another tough decision at safety between Ohio State's Doss and Iowa's Bob Sanders.

Surprisingly, the defensive tackle spot produced few bona-fide superstars. Nebraska's Suh, who played his entire career in the Big 12, was an obvious choice but a second choice proved to be tough.

Arguably the toughest choice came at kicker between Nugent and Iowa's Nate Kaeding. Both won Lou Groza Awards and set numerous records. We gave the nod to Nugent, but not by much.

Big Ten lunchtime links

June, 8, 2012
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So I guess I Won't Have Another.
NFL.com recently finished a countdown of the Top 100 players in the NFL, as voted on by the current players in the league.

Brady

Brady


It's a fascinating list that's sure to stir a lot of debate. But since this is a Big Ten blog, we're going to concern ourselves with where the Top 100 went to college.

There are 13 former Big Ten players on the list, including No. 1: Tom Brady. (Note: We're counting Nebraska players as Big 12 products since the Cornhuskers in the NFL participated in that league. Same thing for Colorado and Utah, Miami and Virginia Tech, etc.). Here are the 13 who made the cut and how they ranked overall:

1. Tom Brady, QB, New England (Michigan)
9. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans (Purdue)
16. Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay (Michigan)
28. Jake Long, OT, Miami (Michigan)
43. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland (Wisconsin)
47. Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets (Ohio State)
58. Brandon Lloyd, WR, Miami (Illinois)
63. Cameron Wake, LB, Miami (Penn State)
64. Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City (Penn State)
76. Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets (Ohio State)
78. Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis (Iowa)
82. LaMarr Woodley, DE, Pittsburgh (Michigan)
97. Shaun Phillips, DE, San Diego (Purdue)

By school:

Michigan: 4
Ohio State: 2
Penn State: 2
Purdue: 2
Illinois: 1
Iowa: 1
Wisconsin: 1

(In case you're wondering, the two Nebraska players on the list are No. 51 Ndamukong Suh and No. 55 Carl Nicks)

Now let's see how the Top 100 stacks up by college conference:

Big East: 16
Big Ten: 13
SEC:
13
ACC: 12
Pac-10: 11
Big 12: 7
Notre Dame: 1
Non-AQ/Small schools: 27

This just reinforces what I always said in my previous job: The best football is played in the Big East. Actually, that league greatly benefits from eight Miami Hurricanes who played their careers in the league before the program jumped ship to the ACC.

It's interesting that the Big Ten has the same amount of Top 100 players as the mighty SEC, no? I thought all the best talent was supposed to be in the SEC. Hmm. The ACC continues to underachieve despite all its talent, while the Big 12 has curiously low representation here (only five players outside of Nebraska).

I also find it fascinating that 27 percent of the supposed cream of the crop in pro football never played in an AQ conference -- Kent State, for example, has three players on the list, more than Alabama, Florida and LSU combined and more than every Big Ten school except Michigan. East Carolina and Central Florida have as many Top 100 players as Ohio State and Penn State. More evidence that recruiting stars don't always equal NFL success. (And indeed, the No. 1 player on the list had to fight tooth and nail to earn a starting job at Michigan).

If nothing else, it's fun fodder for debate.
Iowa senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn has been named one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, given to college football's top lineman.

Clayborn and the three other finalists -- Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, Auburn's Nick Fairley and TCU's Jake Kirkpatrick -- will spend two days in Houston next month before the winner is announced Dec. 8. The Iowa standout has recorded 40 tackles this season, with six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a blocked kick and four quarterback hurries.

Three other Big Ten players -- Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones -- had been named Lombardi Award semifinalists.

Clayborn is a terrific player with a bright future, and while his numbers this season haven't matched last year's, he's facing more double teams from opponents.

I was very disappointed not to see Kerrigan among the finalists.

Much like Michigan's Brandon Graham in 2009, Kerrigan is having an exceptional season but paying the price for being on a mediocre team. He has been the most outstanding defensive player in the Big Ten this fall, hands down.

Former Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley was the Big Ten's last Rotary Lombardi Award winner, taking home the hardware in 2006.
Defensive end should be one of the Big Ten's strongest positions for the second consecutive year, and five players have been named to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's top D-end.

The candidates are:
  • Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
  • Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
  • Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
  • Broderick Binns, Iowa
  • Jack Crawford, Penn State

I'd certainly put Heyward, Clayborn and Kerrigan in the front-runner category for this award, and quite frankly, I'd be a little surprised if one of them doesn't win it on Dec. 8. Iowa is the only team with multiple players on the watch list, a testament to the strength of the Hawkeyes' line. Crawford also is generating some preseason buzz and should lead Penn State's pass rush this fall.

Former Michigan star LaMarr Woodley (2006) is the only Big Ten player to win the Hendricks Award, which started in 2002.

Big Ten all-decade team

January, 22, 2010
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I hope you enjoyed the decade recap series. We had a lot of fun researching and putting it together. Not surprisingly, my top players list generated a ton of feedback -- mostly negative, but that's cool -- from the Big Ten faithful.

Because there were so many deserving players left off the list, I decided to put together an all-decade team to recognize some of the other standouts in the Big Ten from 2000-09. I made the offensive line a bit more general to acknowledge the best players there.

Unlike the top 10, I was a bit more lenient about players who had only one outstanding season during this decade.

Enjoy.

OFFENSE

QB: Troy Smith, Ohio State
RB: Mike Hart, Michigan
RB: Larry Johnson, Penn State
WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan
WR: Charles Rogers, Michigan State
TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa
C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota
OL: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
OL: Robert Gallery, Iowa
OL: Jake Long, Michigan
OL: Eric Steinbach, Iowa

DEFENSE

DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
DT: Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin
DT: Jared Odrick, Penn State
DE: Tamba Hali, Penn State
LB: Paul Posluzsny, Penn State
LB: A.J. Hawk, Ohio Sate
LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin
CB: Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
S: Bob Sanders, Iowa
S: Mike Doss, Ohio State

SPECIALISTS

K: Mike Nugent, Ohio State
P: Travis Dorsch, Purdue
Returners: Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State and Steve Breaston, Michigan

Big Ten teams of the decade

January, 20, 2010
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Unlike the lists for top players and top moments from 2000-09, I had an easier time identifying the top 10 Big Ten squads from the most recent decade. For starters, the Big Ten produced only one national champion and six BCS bowl winners, all but one of which made the top 10 (actually 11). You won't see any three-loss teams on the following list, and 10 wins was the minimum criteria for selection.

Bowl victories counted, but I also put a lot of emphasis on how a team performed during Big Ten play. This is, after all, the Big Ten blog.

Here they are:

1. Ohio State 2002: The only Big Ten squad to win a national title during the aughts tops the list. Ohio State rode a ferocious defense, a clutch quarterback (Craig Krenzel) and a dynamic freshman running back (Maurice Clarett) to a 14-0 record and its first national title since 1975.

2. Penn State 2005: If not for a Michigan touchdown on the final play at the Big House, Penn State could have been playing for a national title. The Nittany Lions still went on to an 11-1 finish and an Orange Bowl championship as Big Ten MVP Michael Robinson led the way at quarterback.

3. Ohio State 2006: No Big Ten team this decade looked more dominant than these Buckeyes, who steamrolled their way through the Big Ten behind Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Ohio State outlasted No. 2 Michigan in a shootout at The Shoe, but lost its mojo before the national title game against Florida. Despite an ugly final result, this team was a juggernaut.

4. Iowa 2002: Only three teams went undefeated in Big Ten play this decade, and the 2002 Hawkeyes were one of them. Quarterback Brad Banks came out of nowhere to become the Heisman Trophy runner-up, while Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders and others helped the Hawkeyes to a share of the league title and road wins against both Penn State and Michigan.

5. Michigan 2006: LaMarr Woodley, Alan Branch and Leon Hall led one of the decade's top defenses as Michigan won its first 10 games, allowing just 13.3 points per contest. The Wolverines ended the year with losses to Ohio State and USC but boasted three All-Americans and several impressive wins.

6. Penn State 2008: Much like Ohio State in 2006, the Nittany Lions were dominant for much of the year, as a dynamic and experienced offense put up points in bunches. Penn State scored 38 points or more in seven of its first eight games. A last-second field goal kept Penn State out of the national title game, but the Lions claimed their second Big Ten championship in four years.

7. Ohio State 2009: Teams are usually remembered by how they finished, and this group got better as the season progressed. Ohio State wasn't much fun to watch in September or October, but a November surge and a very impressive Rose Bowl win against Oregon completely changed the buzz around this squad. Few Big Ten defenses this decade were better than the 2009 Buckeyes.

8. Ohio State 2007: In a season where nothing went according to plan, the Buckeyes surged out of the gate with 10 consecutive wins. A stunning upset loss to Illinois seemed to end Ohio State's national title hopes, but a truly wacky season put the Buckeyes back in the spotlight, where they lost to LSU. The national runner-ups certainly deserve a spot on the list.

9. Iowa 2009: If this were a list of teams not for the faint of heart, these Hawkeyes would be at the top. Every week seemed to bring new drama, and Iowa constantly faced doubts about its success. The truth: This team wasn't far away from an undefeated season and a trip to the Rose Bowl, and it silenced the critics with a very impressive performance in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.

T-10. Wisconsin 2006: The Badgers didn't win any Big Ten titles this decade, but their best team deserves a spot on the list. BCS rules kept Wisconsin from the big bowls, but Bret Bielema's first squad was one of only three Big Ten teams to win 12 or more games in a season this decade. The Badgers finished fifth and seventh in the final polls.

T-10. Ohio State 2005: I just couldn't leave a team that finished fourth in the final AP poll off of this list. The Buckeyes' only losses came against national champion Texas and Orange Bowl champ Penn State, and they finished with an impressive win in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.

Others considered: Iowa 2004, Ohio State 2003, Illinois 2001, Michigan 2003, Iowa 2003, Ohio State 2008.
The Big Ten is largely absent from the national awards race this year, but Michigan has several players still alive for honors.

In addition to punter Zoltan Mesko, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, the Wolverines will be rooting for defensive end Brandon Graham, named a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award on Wednesday.

Graham, who leads the nation in tackles for loss (26) and ranks 15th in sacks (10.5), is one of seven finalists for the award. The others are: Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma), Jerry Hughes (TCU), Sergio Kindle (Texas), Von Miller (Texas A&M), Derrick Morgan (Georgia Tech) and Greg Romeus (Pittsburgh). Michigan's LaMarr Woodley won the Hendricks Award in 2006.

Graham was an absolute beast on both defense and special teams for Michigan, recording two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, two blocked punts and a touchdown return of a blocked punt. He recorded at least one sack in seven of his final eight games.

The Hendricks Award winner will be announced Dec. 9.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In addition to taking flak for his team's poor performance on the field last fall, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez drew criticism for what some called not making a strong enough connection to the program's history and tradition. 

Rodriguez is trying to bridge the gap with some exciting spring game events Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Fans will be able to tour the Wolverines locker room, and one of the highlights is an alumni flag football game to be played at approximately 10 a.m. ET.

Michigan announced a tentative roster for the alumni game Tuesday (the final roster will be finalized Thursday). The participants include former running back Anthony Thomas, former quarterback Rick Leach and former cornerback Zia Combs, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2002.  

Several Michigan alums currently playing in the NFL also will be in attendance at the Big House, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley and Indianapolis Colts running back Mike Hart. 

"I think [the fans will] be entertained," Rodriguez told reporters before today's practice. "There are a lot of neat events that are planned. I think the weather right now will be be pretty good so I think it will be a fun day."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan is the only Big Ten team engaged in contact drills -- seven more start this week -- and the lone squad holding controlled scrimmages. True freshman Tate Forcier took the first snaps in Saturday's scrimmage, which lasted about 100 plays, but was closed to the media.

According to The Detroit News, Forcier had a 20-yard completion to Brandon Minor and fumbled on the next play of the portion of practice reporters were allowed to see. Michigan did not release statistics or other details about the scrimmage.

"We will see how composed he is working with those guys," head coach Rich Rodriguez said of Forcier working with the first unit. "We have a smaller package. We'll simplify things. He shouldn't get overloaded."

Also, as part of Michigan's spring game festivities April 11, Rodriguez wants to recognize the 10 former Wolverines players involved in this year's Super Bowl. So far, linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote have pledged to be a part of the event.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Rotary Lombardi Award revealed its preliminary watch list for 2009 today, and four Big Ten players are among the 48 candidates to become college football's top lineman/linebacker.

Penn State named two players to the list in linebacker junior Navorro Bowman and senior defensive tackle Jared Odrick. Northwestern senior defensive end Corey Wootton and Michigan State junior linebacker Greg Jones also made the list. Don't be surprised if Michigan senior defensive end Brandon Graham is added to the Lombardi Award list at some point this fall. 

Ohio State has produced more Lombardi winners (six) than any other FBS team, though Michigan defensive end/linebacker LaMarr Woodley was the last Big Ten player to win the award (2006).  

 
  AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
  For the second year in a row, a Big Ten receiver made the game-winning touchdown grab in the Super Bowl. This year it was former Ohio State standout Santonio Holmes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

For the second straight year, a former Big Ten wide receiver made the winning touchdown catch in the Super Bowl with exactly 35 seconds left in regulation.

And this time, he took home MVP honors.

Former Ohio State star Santonio Holmes made an electrifying grab in the back of the end zone to lift Pittsburgh past Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday night. Holmes, who made news earlier in the week with an admission that he sold drugs as a kid, had nine receptions for 131 yards to win the game's MVP award.

He's the first Big Ten player to win the award since former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady claimed the second of his two trophies in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Five former Big Ten players -- Brady, Holmes, Len Dawson (Purdue), Desmond Howard (Michigan) and Franco Harris (Penn State) -- have been named Super Bowl MVP.

Holmes' performance came a year after former Michigan State wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught a 13-yard touchdown to complete the Giants' comeback against Brady and the Patriots.

The Super Bowl was an impressive showcase for the Big Ten, which certainly needed a boost. The Big Ten will continue to take flak for its bowl performances, but arguably no league better prepares its players for the NFL.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Former Michigan linebacker LaMarr Woodley had the Steelers' only two sacks and forced a Kurt Warner fumble that sealed the victory with five seconds remaining.
  • Former Minnesota running back Gary Russell scored the game's first touchdown, a 1-yard run for the Steelers early in the second quarter.
  • Former Michigan wide receiver Steve Breaston had six catches for 71 yards to go along with 43 yards on kickoff and punt returns for the Cardinals.
  • Former Purdue linebacker Chike Okeafor finished second on the Cardinals in tackles with six tackles (all solo).
  • Former Minnesota tight end Matt Spaeth and former Illinois fullback Carey Davis both had a reception for six yards with the Steelers.
  • Former Illinois kicker Neil Rackers connected on all three of his extra-point attempts for the Cardinals. He did not attempt a field goal.
  • Former Penn State tackle Levi Brown started for the Cardinals and gave Warner time to rack up 377 pass yards and three touchdowns against the vaunted Steelers defense.

Big Ten's Super Bowl connections

January, 22, 2009
1/22/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As we inch closer toward Super Bowl XLIII, it's time to look at the Big Ten connections for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Michigan has the most connections with seven players on the active roster for the matchup, including Steelers starting linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote and Cardinals reserve wideout and punt returner Steve Breaston. Penn State and Minnesota also are well represented.

STEELERS

  • Safety Tyrone Carter -- attended Minnesota
  • Fullback Carey Davis* -- attended Illinois
  • Guard Trai Essex -- attended Northwestern
  • Linebacker Larry Foote* -- attended Michigan
  • Wide receiver Santonio Holmes* -- attended Ohio State
  • Tight end Sean McHugh -- attended Penn State
  • Nose tackle Scott Paxson -- attended Penn State
  • Running back Gary Russell -- attended Minnesota
  • Tight end Matt Spaeth -- attended Minnesota
  • Linebacker Lamarr Woodley* -- attended Michigan
  • Linebacker Mike Humpal (injured reserve) -- attended Iowa
  • Running back Rashard Mendenhall (injured reserve) -- attended Illinois
  • Update: Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- attended Ohio State and played cornerback
  • Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner -- attended Purdue and served as a graduate assistant for both the Boilermakers and Michigan
  • Running backs coach Kirby Wilson -- Played his final two seasons at Illinois

ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Defensive tackle Alan Branch -- attended Michigan
  • Wide receiver Steve Breaston -- attended Michigan
  • Tackle Levi Brown* -- attended Penn State
  • Linebacker Victor Hobson -- attended Michigan
  • Long snapper Nathan Hodel -- attended Illinois
  • Defensive end Kenny Iwebema -- attended Iowa
  • Defensive end Chike Okeafor* -- attended Purdue
  • Kicker Neil Rackers* -- attended Illinois
  • Tight end Jerame Tuman -- attended Michigan
  • Defensive tackle Gabe Watson -- attended Michigan
  • Defensive line coach Ron Aiken -- coached Iowa's defensive line from 1999-2006, earned AFCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year honors in 2002
  • Defensive backs coach Teryl Austin -- coached defensive backs at Michigan from 1999-2002 and served as a graduate assistant at Penn State from 1991-92
  • Linebackers coach Bill Davis -- Served as a graduate assistant at Michigan State

* -- starter

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