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Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Ohio Connection: Super Bowl XLVII



This Sunday promises to be one for the ages, as Super Bowl XLVII is set to roll into New Orleans and end all debate on just who deserves top billing for the 2012 NFL season. The Baltimore Ravens will clash with the San Francisco 49ers, forcing the rest of America to pick a side and cheer them on to victory. While neither team hails from Ohio,  you might be surprised to learn that several key players, coaches and even sporting equipment come from the buckeye state. Here’s a look at which Ohio natives will be at the Superdome come February 3rd.

Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh

This Super Bowl is special for a lot of reasons: Both teams are undefeated in Super Bowl appearances. The game will be the first Super Bowl played in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina and the stadium’s subsequent remodel. Another big draw is that it will be the first time in NFL history that a pair of brothers will face each other for the Vince Lombardi trophy. John Harbaugh, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens will go up against 49er’s head coach Jim Harbaugh, his younger brother. While many are familiar with the two coaches and their rise to the top, several football enthusiasts are unaware of their deep Ohio roots. Both Harbaugh’s were born in Toledo, Ohio; John in 1962, and Jim in 1963. The two would spend most of their childhoods being brought up in the Ohio valley, before moving to Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan, and California. Their father, also a football coach would bring them up with a respect for the game that would lead to both pursuing careers as players in college. John went on to play football for Miami of Ohio, down in Oxford before becoming an assistant coach at Western Michigan. Jim, undaunted by his Ohio upbringing would end up as quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines, leading them to a 1987 Rose Bowl victory and a third place finish for the Heisman. While John began a career as a coach early in life, Jim would go on to play professional ball with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers before his own coaching career began. He coached at WKU under his own father from 1994-2001, until becoming quarterback coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002. He got his first head coach position with San Diego for 3 years, until joining with Stanford in 2007. Stanford would go on to 2 consecutive bowl appearances, including the 2011 Orange Bowl. He was offered the head coach position with the 49ers soon after. John, meanwhile was building an impressive resume with the NFL. After stints with Cincinnati University and Indiana, John found himself as assistant coach and defensive backs coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, where he would remain for 6 years. He would become head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

The OSU Effect

There’s no denying that Ohio State churns out awesome NFL recruits, several of whom go on to become
key players to their teams. The 49ers will be bringing four former OSU players with them to New Orleans this weekend, most of them starters. Alex Boone of Lakewood, OH, and former All Big-Ten selection with the Buckeyes  will be representing at the tackle/guard position. Boone started for OSU all 4 years of his college career, and parlayed that into a successful pro career with the 49ers. Joining him will be linebacker Larry Grant, who played for OSU his junior and senior years before being named JUCO National Player of the Year in 2005. Grant would end up signing with the St. Louis Rams after the 2008 NFL draft, before moving to the 49ers in 2011. Two players that Buckeye faithful’s will have no trouble spotting on the field are Ted Ginn Jr. and Donte Whitner, who not only tore up the turf in college, but have been climbing the ranks in the NFL as well. Ginn, who many will remember as the punt returning phenom of Glenville High and OSU plays wide receiver for the 49ers, and will surely be utilizing that blazing speed he’s known for on Sunday. While football might be his forte now, Ginn was originally recruited by OSU in track, and was believed to have been a shoe-in for the Olympics at one time. He racked up several awards and honors leading the Bucks to back to back National Championship runs before being picked 9th overall in the 2007 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, who would trade him in 2011 to San Francisco. Safety Donte Whitner is perhaps the most interesting figure in the Super Bowl equation thus far. At the age of 6, Whitner was struck by a car while chasing a football into the street. He fractured his leg in 30 separate places and was told he would most likely never walk again. Not only is Donte walking today, he’s become a stand-out on the national football scene. Whitner would also end up at Glenville during high school before officially becoming a Buckeye. He was selected 8th overall in the 2006 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills, where he began his career by intercepting a pass from Tom Brady in his very first game. Whitner gained free agency in 2011, when he signed with the 49ers after considering the Cincinnati Bengals as well. His career highlights include NFL Rookie of the Month (Sept. 2006), NFC Champion (2012), and participation in the 2012 Pro Bowl.


Coach Central

It might surprise some Ohioans to know that more college and pro football coaches come from Ohio than any other state in the country. The best programs in the nation are built by Buckeyes, and the coaches that make up the staff for the 49ers and Ravens are no different. 49ers Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is a graduate of John Carroll University, located in University Heights near Cleveland. The Ravens boast 3 Ohio natives, their Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees is from Dunkirk, Ohio and coached at Bowling Green, Miami University, the University of Toledo, and was head coach at Kent State University in 1998. Assistant Special Teams coach Chris Hewitt played college football for the Cincinnati Bearcats, before eventually winding up on the Cleveland Browns coaching staff, just before moving to the Ravens. Don Martindale, the Ravens Inside Linebackers coach is from Trotwood, Ohio near Dayton where he grew up. He coached for both Defiance College and the University of Cincinnati before moving to Baltimore. 


Made in Ohio

Our state has another thing going for it when it comes to the Super Bowl, and it’s definitely something only we can boast about. Every football that will be thrown, caught, and kicked on Sunday will have been made right here in Ohio. Wilsons, known as the leaders in sporting equipment manufacturing is based out of Ada, Ohio and goes into overdrive every January to produce the balls used in the championship game. It turns out, Wilsons has been making all of the NFL’s balls in Ada since the 1950’s, not to mention all they produce for other sports, colleges, youth leagues, ect. The totally crazy thing about producing the Super Bowl balls is that each ball used has the two team’s names and logos stamped onto them, commemorating the event. Doesn’t sound too difficult right? Well, considering the final game to decide the remaining teams don’t occur until maybe two weeks before the event, workers at Wilsons have to go into overdrive to get the balls done and shipped on time. Infact, workers have a tradition of showing up to work at the plant in Ada during halftime of the final game, where they watch the remainder of the game over pizza and party snacks, awaiting the final puzzle piece before jumping to work on the balls. From around 10 PM to the early morning hours they’ll work on them until a new set of employees shows to relieve them. When all is said and done, they’ll produce around 230 game balls for the Super Bowl total, which are then shipped to the game location.


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