The Golden State leads all others with 13 players on the roster of either the Patriots or Giants, led of course by two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. Go through these stories on Signing Day on Wednesday and remember the amazing paths many of these players took to get to the NFL, often without a Division I scholarship.
Florida comes close with 11, but it’s another year in which more players in the Super Bowl are from California high schools than anywhere else.
California doesn’t always win this battle (like in baseball’s World Series), but is almost always in the top three.
Here is a closer look at the 13 players listed on the active roster of either the New England Patriots or New York Giants who are from California:
WR Ramses Barden (Flintridge Prep, La Canada)
The back-up for the Giants played 8-man football in high school and was named the 2003-04 Cal-Hi Sports Division V state athlete of the year. In addition to football, Barden starred for the Rebels in basketball and volleyball. Barden went to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was not a highly-ranked college prospect.
QB Tom Brady (Junipero Serra, San Mateo)
He’s already been MVP of the Super Bowl twice (2002, 2004) and could tie his boyhood idol Joe Montana with a third. Brady is not like last year’s MVP, Aaron Rodgers, who was an unknown in high school to the colleges. He was regarded enough to get offers from Michigan, Cal and elsewhere. Brady is from the same high school as Super Bowl X MVP Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
QB David Carr (Stockdale, Bakersfield)
A former No. 1 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, Carr did start for several years with the Houston Texans before becoming a back-up. He’s now doing that behind Eli Manning with the Giants. His younger brother, Derek, started at quarterback last season at Fresno State, which also is where David Carr played.
DB Patrick Chung (Rancho Cucamonga)
Originally from Jamaica, Chung is one of those athletes who has gotten better just about every year after high school. He went to Oregon after ranking as the second-leading tackler for Rancho Cucamonga during the 2003 season and now starts for the Patriots. While with the Cougars, Chung also played alongside Terrell Thomas, who isn't on this list for the Giants because he's on the injured reserve list. The only two schools in the nation to have two players in this year's Super Bowl are Woodland Hills (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Riverview (Sarasota, Fla.). If Thomas was healthy, Rancho Cucamonga would have been the third.
WR Julian Edelman (Woodside)
The jack-of-all-trades for the Patriots, who now plays receiver and defensive back, was a similar player for Woodside’s 13-0 team in 2004. Instead of receiver, though, he played quarterback where he ran and passed for more than 2,000 combined yards. Edelman should be one of the most inspirational players for today’s high schoolers as his path to the NFL went from College of San Mateo to Kent State. Not exactly your blue-chip, five-star recruit.
OL Logan Mankins (Mariposa)
We’ve written about Mankins’ path to being a top-level offensive lineman in the NFL during previous Patriots’ trips to the Super Bowl. It’s worth repeating. He was a tight end, linebacker in high school who was good enough to get into the Central California Lions All-Star Game and got the attention of coaches at Fresno State (his only offer). While in Fresno, Mankins bulked up to become a dominant offensive lineman. If a kid from Mariposa (a small town near Yosemite National Park) can make it, so can anybody.
DB Sterling Moore (Deer Valley, Antioch)
Moore’s path to the Super Bowl is perhaps even more hard to believe than anyone’s. He didn’t even play at Deer Valley until his senior season in 2006 and only averaged two tackles per game. He then went to Laney College in Oakland where his career drastically improved and he became a JUCO All-American. He still only received limited Division I college interest after that, eventually signing with Hofstra, but then had to scramble after Hofstra’s program was disbanded. SMU took a chance on him, but in his senior season there he suffered a knee injury. He was a free agent signing by the Raiders earlier this year, but was cut and then got picked up by the Patriots. He’ll now be known forever by Patriots’ fans for knocking the ball out of the hands of the Baltimore Ravens’ Lee Evans in the end zone in the final seconds of last week’s AFC final. If Evans completes that catch, it’s probably the Ravens and not the Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl.
TE Bear Pascoe (Granite Hills, Porterville)
Yes, Bear is a nickname but he’s been going by that since playing quarterback in high school. Pascoe, who was the 2003 East Yosemite League Offensive Player of the Year, also displayed unique athleticism for his size as a varsity basketball player and by placing sixth in the discus as a senior in the CIF Central Section track finals. He became a tight end at Fresno State and in last week’s win by the Giants over the 49ers he scored the team’s first touchdown on a pass from Eli Manning.
LB Spencer Paysinger (Beverly Hills)
At Beverly Hills, Spencer played for his uncle, Carter Paysinger, who has since moved on to become the principal of the school. Carter Paysinger also is a member of the CIF Southern Section Executive Committee. Donald Paysinger, Spencer’s father, is now the Normans’ head coach. Spencer is often very active on many of the Giants’ special teams’ units.
WR Matthew Slater (Servite, Anaheim)
The son of NFL Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater went to Servite when the Friars were not the dominant team they’ve been in recent years. He did catch 39 passes for 700 yards as a senior and got a scholarship to UCLA, but he was more successful in track with clockings of 10.67 in the 100 and 21.39 in the 200. Slater is a standout on special teams for the Patriots.
DL Dave Tollefson (Ygnacio Valley, Concord)
Yet another amazing story of someone who never gave up on their football dreams. For Tollefson, poor grades limited his college opportunities. He played two years as a 210-pound linebacker at Los Medanos College, but then was out of the game for two years and had a job at Home Depot. Eventually, through a friendship with former Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi (who went to school at De La Salle, located adjacent to Ygnacio Valley), Tollefson got himself ready to play again and eventually resumed his career at D2 Northwest Missouri State. He became a 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end who could rush the passer. Tollefson was originally picked up by the Green Bay Packers for the 2003 season. He played one year there and wound up on the Giants’ roster for the 2007 Super Bowl. He’ll be playing in his second Super Bowl next weekend.
RB Shane Vereen (Valencia)
The rookie running back from Cal is still looking to make an impact for the Patriots. We remember seeing Vereen play as a sophomore for Valencia in a game against Canyon. We were there mostly to see Valencia QB Michael Herrick (who set the state career passing yards record) and a Canyon team led by RB J.J. DiLuigi that launched itself after a win that night and eventually beat De La Salle in the first CIF Division I state bowl game.
OL Ryan Wendell (Diamond Bar)
He’s from the same high school as U.S. women’s soccer star Alex Morgan and played alongside Logan Mankins when the two were teammates at Fresno State. Next Sunday, the two will be teammates for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Unlike Mankins, Wendell was not a high draft pick for the NFL. The Patriots signed him as a free agent after the 2008 draft and he spent two years on the practice squad.
Comments or corrections? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.