It’s Super Bowl week, and that means it’s time for a few posts about the Hawkeyes and the Super Bowl!  There are a lot of questions out there about Super Bowl Hawkeyes.  How many Hawkeyes have a Super Bowl ring?  How many Hawkeyes have played in the Super Bowl?  How many Hawkeyes have started in the Super Bowl for the winning team?

So many questions, so little time!  It’s hard to get straight answers at times, even from the University of Iowa.  But never fear…that’s why I’m here.

Kick back, relax, and enjoy reading about the exploits of these Super Bowl Hawkeyes!

Setting The Record Straight

Before we get into that, I need to take a minute to rant a bit…and to set the record straight.  Readers of this site should know by now that I love the University of Iowa.  I really and truly do.  But sometimes there are things about Iowa that just tick me straight off, and one of those things is that Iowa, like many schools, likes to stretch the truth at times.  As much as I love the Hawks, I love the truth even more.  So when I read someone passing along misleading or outright wrong “facts” about the Hawkeyes, I usually feel the need to step in…even if the one passing along the bad information is the university itself.

Super Bowl Hawkeyes - Iowa Hawkeyes Super Bowl RingsLast week, the Baltimore Ravens clinched a trip to Super Bowl XLVII.  That means that two Hawkeyes – starting guard Marshal Yanda and reserve safety Sean Considine – are headed to New Orleans for a rare chance at a Super Bowl ring.  Yanda is expected to start the game, while Considine is expected to get significant time on special teams.  That’s very exciting stuff for Hawkeye fans everywhere!

But last Monday, the University of Iowa released a news article that led off with this fun fact (which the university also tweeted out to the Twittersphere for all you Twitterers out there):

“This year’s Super Bowl will mark the 10th-straight in which a former Hawkeye has played in the game, marking the eighth-longest streak in the nation.”

That’s a very impressive stat.  Of course, it’s easy to come up with impressive stats when they don’t necessarily need to be true.

No Hawkeye played in a Super Bowl as recently as Super Bowl XLII, which was held in 2008.  This was the great “helmet catch” Super Bowl where the New York Giants upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots.  If that’s true, why is the University of Iowa claiming that Hawkeyes have played in ten straight Super Bowls?

The erroneous statistic cited by the university above can probably be explained by this link, where lists various “Hawkeyes in the Super Bowl.”  C.J. Jones is listed as playing the 2007 season with the Patriots, who, as mentioned, made the Super Bowl.

Now, I love C.J. Jones…he made one of the greatest kick returns in Hawkeye history in the 2003 Orange Bowl.  But although he practiced with several pro football teams, he never once appeared in an NFL game…and he certainly didn’t play in Super Bowl XLII.  The Patriots did, but Jones spent the entire 2007 NFL season on the Patriots’ practice squad.

The same goes for Erik Jensen and Super Bowl XL.  Jensen was a member of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad, but he didn’t play in any regular season games – and he obviously did not play in the Super Bowl.  Yet the University of Iowa uses the fact that Jones and Jensen made practice squads of Super Bowl teams to claim that this year’s Super Bowl is the tenth straight where a former Hawkeye has played in the game.

Again, I love the Hawks…but I love celebrating their actual accomplishments.  Spreading erroneous “facts” is something I think should be avoided at all costs.  For instance, the University of Iowa could have said, “This year is the tenth-straight season in which a former Hawkeye will have an opportunity to earn a Super Bowl ring.”  While it stretches the truth somewhat in that it presumes that practice players always garner Super Bowl rings (more on that later), at least it’s grounded in reality.  Saying that C.J. Jones and Erik Jensen played in the Super Bowl is not.

Sorry for the rant, but as much as I love the University of Iowa, sometimes I need to take them to task.  On a happier note, let’s answer some of those questions we posed at the beginning, shall we?

How Many Hawkeyes Have Played in the Super Bowl?

This is not as easy a question to answer as it may seem.  A seldom-used player on a Super Bowl roster could easily sneak into the game for a few plays on special teams, record no official stats, yet still deserve to be recognized as playing in the Super Bowl.

With that disclaimer added, according to my research, 28 Hawkeyes have thus far played in the Super Bowl (Yanda and Considine would be #29 and #30).  Sixteen of these Hawkeyes started for their respective teams (Yanda would be #17).

Here are the 28 Hawkeyes who have played in a Super Bowl.  The 16 players who started for their respective teams are listed in bold:

  • Bob Jeter, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowls I & II
  • Curt Merz, Kansas City Chiefs – Super Bowl I
  • Ed Podolak, Kansas City Chiefs – Super Bowl IV
  • Paul Krause, Minnesota Vikings – Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, & XI
  • Wally Hilgenberg, Minnesota Vikings – Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, & XI
  • John Niland, Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowls V & VI
  • Karl Noonan, Miami Dolphins – Super Bowl VI
  • Paul Laaveg, Washington Redskins – Super Bowl VII
  • Jim Jensen, Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XII
  • John Harty, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XVI
  • Reggie Roby, Miami Dolphins – Super Bowl XIX
  • Jay Hilgenberg, Chicago Bears – Super Bowl XX
  • Mark Bortz, Chicago Bears – Super Bowl XX
  • Andre Tippett, New England Patriots – Super Bowl XX
  • Bruce Klosterman, Denver Broncos – Super Bowls XXII & XXIV
  • Bob Kratch, New York Giants/New England Patriots – Super Bowls XXV & XXXI
  • Mike Devlin, Buffalo Bills – Super Bowl XXVIII
  • Merton Hanks, San Francisco 49ers – Super Bowl XXIX
  • Ronnie Harmon, San Diego Chargers – Super Bowl XXIX
  • Jonathan Hayes, Pittsburgh Steelers – Super Bowl XXX
  • Ross Verba, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl XXXII
  • Tim Dwight, Atlanta Falcons – Super Bowl XXXIII
  • Bruce Nelson, Carolina Panthers – Super Bowl XXXVIII
  • Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts – Super Bowl XLI
  • Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts – Super Bowls XLI & XLIV
  • Kenny Iwebema, Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII
  • Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl XLV
  • Tyler Sash, New York Giants – Super Bowl XLVI

It’s a very impressive group, one that Marshal Yanda and Sean Considine will probably join by week’s end.

The one name on there that even hardcore Hawk fans may not recognize is Bruce Klosterman.  Klosterman attended Waldorf College, a junior college in northern Iowa.  After two years there, he walked on to the Iowa football team as a junior but very quickly realized that he was unhappy in Iowa City.  Klosterman then transferred to South Dakota State, where he played two seasons of college football before heading to the NFL.  As you can see, he eventually played in two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

Bruce Klosterman is the only player on this list who didn’t earn a letter playing football for Iowa, which revives the old debate over who does or doesn’t count as being a “former Hawkeye”.  As usual, I tend to err on the side of including people in this little Hawkeye family of ours – though I’ll gladly make occasional exceptions for guys like Kyle “Bonecrusher” Williams (for those who don’t know, Williams was a highly touted recruit who spent a week at Iowa before transferring to Purdue; he played one season with the Boilermakers before being sentenced to 37 years in prison on a battery and attempted rape conviction.  That’s enough to revoke the “Once A Hawkeye, Always A Hawkeye” slogan for me.) 

But back to Klosterman…even though he didn’t take to Iowa City, I’ll still celebrate him as a former Hawkeye.  After all, if it’s good enough for Pro Football Reference, it’s good enough for me.

The Super Bowl Hawkeye DNP Club

There are seven Hawkeyes who played for a team in the regular season that wound up making the Super Bowl at the end of the year.  For one reason or another, these seven didn’t play in the Super Bowl – usually because their seasons had been cut short by injury – but they still contributed to their team’s Super Bowl season.

  • Mike Reilly, Minnesota Vikings, 1969 – Reilly played ten games for the Vikings in 1969, but he was inactive for Super Bowl IV.
  • Thomas Smith, Miami Dolphins, 1973 – Tom Smith lettered for the Hawkeyes in 1969 before transferring in the spring of 1970 to the University of Miami.  Smith joined Larry Lawrence and transferred from Iowa to Miami at the height of the public feud between Forest Evashevski and Ray Nagel.  Smith finished his college career with the Hurricanes and later played a grand total of two career games in the NFL…both with the 1973 Miami Dolphins, who went on to win Super Bowl VIII.
  • Al Randolph, Minnesota Vikings, 1973 – Randolph played 11 games in 1973 with the Vikings, who made Super Bowl VIII.  But unlike fellow Hawkeyes Paul Krause and Wally Hilgenberg, I don’t believe Randolph actually played in that Super Bowl.
  • Matt Bowen, St. Louis Rams, 2001 – Bowen broke his right foot in the Rams’ season opener, and he was waived by the organization several weeks later.  Bowen promptly signed with Green Bay and played in the Packers’ final five games of the season; his Rams, meanwhile, advanced to Super Bowl XXXVI.
  • Kevin Kasper, New England Patriots, 2004 – Kasper played eight games with the Patriots in 2004, recording no statistics.  He was then put on the inactive list for the rest of the season, including the playoffs, when the team made Super Bowl XXXIX.
  • Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts, 2009 – Sanders was a key factor in the Colts’ victory in Super Bowl XLI.  However, in 2009, he only played in two games for the Colts before suffering a torn biceps that sidelined him for the season, including Super Bowl XLIV.
  • Jeff Tarpinian, New England Patriots, 2011 –  Tarpinian played seven games with the Patriots in 2011 before being sidelined for the season with a head injury.  The Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLVI.

Finally, there are four Hawkeyes who are often credited with being a part of Super Bowl seasons, but they are notable in that none of them ever played a single game in the NFL:

  • Melvin Foster, Dallas Cowboys, 1992 – Foster sat out the Cowboys’ Super Bowl season with a knee injury he suffered in college at Iowa.
  • Matt Rodgers, Buffalo Bills, 1992 – Rodgers was on the Bills’ practice squad for their entire Super Bowl season.
  • Erik Jensen, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2005 – Jensen was on the Steelers’ practice squad for their entire Super Bowl season.
  • C.J. Jones, New England Patriots, 2007 – Jones was on the Patriots’ practice squad for their entire Super Bowl season.

Practice squad players are even harder to track, as there is no universal record kept of them, but these four Hawkeyes at least were on the practice squad of a team that reached the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Rings

This brings us to the most frequently asked question about Super Bowl Hawkeyes…how many Hawkeyes have a Super Bowl ring?

This is a difficult question to answer, because there’s no set standard for who does or doesn’t receive a Super Bowl ring.  For instance, in the case of practice squad players, they usually get rings if their team wins the Super Bowl, but it’s completely at the discretion of the organization.  Because of this, there’s no way to be sure that any answer includes absolutely everyone.

However, I believe that 16 Hawkeyes have earned Super Bowl rings as players.  They are:

  • Bob Jeter, Green Bay Packers, Super Bowls I & II – starter
  • Ed Podolak, Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl IV – reserve
  • John Niland, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl VI – starter
  • Thomas Smith, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl VIII – inactive
  • John Harty, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XVI – reserve
  • Jay Hilgenberg, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX – starter
  • Mark Bortz, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX – starter
  • Bob Kratch, New York Giants, Super Bowl XXV – reserve
  • Melvin Foster, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVII – injured reserve
  • Merton Hanks, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIX – starter
  • Kevin Kasper, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXIX – inactive
  • Erik Jensen, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XL – inactive
  • Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowl XLI – starter
  • Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowl XLI – starter
  • Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV – starter
  • Tyler Sash, New York Giants, Super Bowl XLVI – reserve

There you have it…the 16 Hawkeyes who have earned Super Bowl rings as players.  Bear in mind that this number includes Thomas Smith, an Iowa transfer who may or may not be seen as a Hawkeye, depending on your standards.  As with Bruce Klosterman, I’ll count him.

Of these 16 Hawkeyes with Super Bowl rings, twelve of them actually played in the Super Bowl where he claimed his ring.  Eight Hawkeyes were starters for Super Bowl champions – Jeter (twice), Niland, Jay Hilgenberg, Bortz, Hanks, Sanders, Clark, and Bulaga.  Four others – Podolak, Harty, Kratch, and Sash – didn’t start but played in the Super Bowl for the winning team.  Two Hawkeyes, Thomas Smith and Kevin Kasper, didn’t play in the Super Bowl itself but played for the team in the regular season and earned rings as a result.  Finally, two Hawks, Melvin Foster and Erik Jensen, didn’t appear in any games during the Super Bowl winning year but were a part of the organization that season and collected rings from that association.

A Little Super Bowl Hawkeye Trivia

One man stands out among Super Bowl Hawkeyes – Bob Jeter, the only Hawk to collect two Super Bowl rings as a player.  Jeter started for Vince Lombardi’s Packers in Super Bowls I and II.

Two Hawkeyes had terrible Super Bowl luck – Paul Krause and Wally Hilgenberg, teammates for all four of the Minnesota Vikings’ Super Bowl losses.  On the flip side, they are the only two Hawkeyes to play in more than two Super Bowls.  Bruce Klosterman can sympathize, as he played in two Super Bowl losses as a member of the Denver Broncos.

Besides Krause, Wally Hilgenberg, Klosterman, and Jeter, three other Hawkeyes have played in multiple Super Bowls.  John Niland, Bob Kratch, and Dallas Clark know both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat – each of these Hawkeyes appeared in two Super Bowls, winning one and losing one.  Niland and Clark went 1-1 in the Super Bowl with the Cowboys and Colts, respectively.  Bob Kratch, on the other hand, holds the distinction of being the only Hawkeye to advance to the Super Bowl with two different organizations; Kratch won a Super Bowl with the Giants before being on the losing end of things with the Patriots.

Marshal Yanda could put an exclamation point on one of the greatest Super Bowl seasons ever for an Iowa Hawkeye with a Ravens victory.  Earlier this year, Yanda was named a first-team All-Pro by the Pro Football Writers Association.  With a Super Bowl victory, Yanda could become the fourth Hawkeye to earn first-team All-Pro honors and win a Super Bowl in the same season – joining Merton Hanks in 1994, John Niland in 1971, and Bob Jeter in 1967.

Yanda and Considine will become the fourth pair of Hawkeyes to play in a Super Bowl together.  The previous two pairs – Bob Sanders and Dallas Clark with the Colts and Jay Hilgenberg and Mark Bortz with the Bears – won Super Bowls together.  Practice didn’t make perfect for Wally Hilgenberg and Paul Krause, who paired up in four separate Super Bowls…and saw their teams go 0-4.

There were five Super Bowls where Hawkeyes squared off against each other, starting in Super Bowl I when Curt Merz of the Chiefs saw his team fall to Jeter’s Packers.  Podolak’s Chiefs handed Krause and Wally Hilgenberg their first of four Super Bowl losses in Super Bowl IV, and two years later, Niland’s Cowboys bested Noonan’s Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.  Super Bowl XX was just the second Super Bowl to feature three Hawkeyes (joining Super Bowl IV) and the only one to feature three Hawkeye starters; Super Bowl XX saw Jay Hilgenberg and Bortz lead the Bears to Super Bowl victory over Tippett’s Patriots.  Finally, two Hawkeyes last squared off for the Super Bowl prize in Super Bowl XXIX, when Merton Hanks’ 49ers topped Ronnie Harmon’s Chargers.

I’d also like to note that the previous counts of Hawkeyes with Super Bowl rings include only Hawkeye NFL players.  This is important, because several Hawkeyes have earned Super Bowl rings on the sidelines!  For instance, I would guess that Tom Moore probably has more Super Bowl rings than any other Hawkeye.  He served as Chuck Noll’s receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won Super Bowls XIII & XIV, and he was also Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator when the Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLI.  His three Super Bowl rings as a coach trump even Jeter’s output!

Other Hawkeyes earned Super Bowl rings on the sidelines as well.  Dennis Green was the wide receivers coach of the San Francisco 49ers when the team won Super Bowl XXIII.  Also, Jim Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach for the Colts when he, Sanders, Clark, and Moore claimed rings for Super Bowl XLI, and Caldwell will have an opportunity to add a second Super Bowl ring to his collection this weekend as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens.  Just off the top of my head, there are three former Hawkeye players who went on to earn Super Bowl rings while coaching.

If you include Hawkeye coaches, you can find even more Super Bowl Hawkeyes.  For example, Carl Jackson, the longtime Iowa running backs coach under both Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz, served as the running back coach for the 49ers when they captured Super Bowl XXIX.  And Jerry Burns, the former Iowa head coach from 1961-1965, coached in six Super Bowls, including victories in Super Bowls I & II as an assistant coach for the great Vince Lombardi.

Finally, let’s take a moment to recognize Scott Helverson, the former Hawkeye receiver who officiated Super Bowls XLII and XLV as a back judge.  No rings for that, of course, but it’s always great to see a Hawkeye on the field at the Super Bowl!

I hope you enjoyed this look back at Super Bowl Hawkeyes…and best wishes to Yanda and Considine as they join this prestigious group on Sunday!

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