Recalling Super Bowl memories with a touch of the Mountain State

By Frank Giardina
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As you read this I am en route to New York/New Jersey to work at Super Bowl XLVIII. I have covered almost a dozen Super Bowls and am always looking for players and coaches with West Virginia ties. In the last 12 years, here are a few snapshots in my mind that stand out.
  • Ahmad Bradshaw - The powerful running back was a high school star from Bluefield, Va., who spent many a Friday night in Mitchell Stadium before starring at Marshall. He won two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants. Prior to his first Super Bowl against the Patriots, I asked him in front of a throng of media if the Super Bowl experience was bigger than a Bluefield-Graham game. Bradshaw laughed and said, "Well, this is pretty big, but I am not sure it's as big as Graham and Bluefield." The hundreds of media looked at us both as if we were nuts.
  • Troy Brown - The former Marshall great won three Super Bowls with New England. In Houston, in 2004, I still remember his genuine smile as he talked from a media-day podium about how coming to Marshall and our state changed his life. He is not a native of our state, but he has chosen to live here after his NFL days were done.
  • Larry Coyer - One of the great defensive coaches in the NFL, he was a football star at Barboursville High and at Marshall. He was the defensive coordinator for the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. I remember Colts defensive assistant Alan Williams saying at a media table with many of us around, "Whatever you do, don't get Larry talking about growing up in West Virginia. He loves that place. He drives us crazy in staff meetings, talking non-stop about West Virginia and all the great athletes and coaches who have come from there."  
  • Doug Legursky - The former Woodrow Wilson and Marshall star played in two Super Bowls. You could follow the progression of his career in the two games. At Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa after the 2009 season, he was on the Steelers practice squad and no media bothered him. Two years later in Dallas, he was making his first start at center in Super Bowl XLV and he was one of the key stories leading up to the game. He was swarmed by the media at all media events.
  • Oliver Luck - My Super Bowl memory of Oliver Luck comes from Super Bowl XXXVIII, when the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Luck was the president of the Houston Sports Association and he and his committee did an incredible job hosting the game. The hospitality was overwhelming. Luck and his committee and city put their best foot forward that week. 
  • Randy Moss - I have to admit, as a fellow DuPont High grad, it was fun to watch Moss on the big stage at the Super Bowl in February 2008. I remember being struck at how he looked like he belonged there, how he always seemed destined to play on sport's biggest stage. Only David Tyree's miracle catch prevented Moss from scoring what would have been the game winning touchdown.
  • Jason Rader - The former St. Albans and Marshall star was a practice squad player with the Patriots in the 2007 season and dressed for Media Day, so it was good to see his hard work put him in a position to enjoy the Super Bowl experience.
  • Nick Saban - The Marion County native didn't play or coach in a Super Bowl, but he gave me a Super Bowl memory. In 2007, when the Colts and Bears were meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Saban was a hot topic in Miami as he had just left the Dolphins for Alabama.  Along radio row, my broadcast position was located next to a loud sports talk station from Miami. As I talked with three of the staffers there, I predicted Saban would win big at Alabama. They scoffed loudly. When I predicted he would win a national title in five years in Tuscaloosa, they laughed even more. Well, it didn't take him five years, it only took him three. In fact, he would win three in six years. I have been looking for those guys on Radio Row ever since. 
  • Steve Slaton - The former WVU running back was honored by the NFL as one of the top rookies from the 2008 season at the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa. Slaton had rushed for 1,282 yards and his future looked bright. I remember standing next to another media member with in-state ties who proclaimed, "That kid is going to have an incredible career in this league." Sadly, it seemed to be a kiss of death as Slaton battled injuries and eventually was waived out of the league.
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