This year’s Super Bowl roster doesn’t include either Maryland-based NFL franchise. However, the state is still heavily represented with several Maryland natives taking the field on Sunday, Feb. 13.
Sure, the same people reading this would be more enthused if the game included either the Baltimore Ravens or the Washington Football Team. But at least you can find a rooting interest in a game in which your favorite team isn’t involved.
Nine people with some sort of ties to Maryland are part of the coaching staffs and active rosters for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams.
However, it is a sliding scale of Maryland-ness on the Super Bowl LVI roster.
A couple of players are as Maryland as Maryland gets. They likely have the state flag tattooed on their back and even know a killer crab cake recipe. These are the guys that were born in the state, had a standout high school career, and then became a University of Maryland Terrapin before starting a professional career.
Others grew up in the state but headed elsewhere to play college football. And at the bottom of that scale are the ones that just had a brief stop in Maryland to play or coach for a few seasons.
For all the folks on the list, a win next Sunday would give them their first Super Bowl ring.
Tried and true Maryland natives on Super Bowl roster
Only two players fit into this category:
- Jake Funk
- Keandre Jones
Both played high school and college football in Maryland before heading to the NFL.
Funk is a rookie running back for the Rams. The 24-year-old from Gaithersburg was a standout at Damascus High School and headed to College Park on a scholarship.
During his COVID-shortened senior year at the University of Maryland, he averaged 129 yards per game and was named third-team All-Big Ten. He entered the draft following the season and was taken in the seventh round by the Rams in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, his first season in the league was injury-plagued. Funk tore his hamstring in a Week 6 matchup against the New York Giants and was originally supposed to miss the remainder of the season. However, Funk’s diagnosis changed from a tear to a strain, and he returned in late December.
Funk has only a handful of carries this season. He will likely play a minor role in the backfield while Sony Michel carries most of the workload.
On the other side, Jones is a linebacker for the Bengals. He just barely fits this category because he did technically play football at the University of Maryland. However, it was only one year.
The 24-year-old Olney, MD, native played high school ball at Good Counsel High School, where he was a second-team All-American. He played the first three years of his college career at Ohio State before transferring home to the University of Maryland for his final season.
Jones signed with the Chicago Bears in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. The Bears released Jones in September, and he signed with the Bengals’ practice team a few days later. He earned a spot on the active roster just before the end of the 2021 regular season.
Born and raised Marylanders in Big Game
This category lumps together the players that played high school football in Maryland but left for their college careers:
- Rams offensive linemen Rob Havenstein
- Bengals offensive tackle Isiah Prince
- Bengals nose tackle Zach Kerr
Havenstein has the most successful NFL career of anyone on this list. The 6-foot-8, 330-pound Mount Airy native graduated from Linganore High School and headed to the University of Wisconsin afterward.
As a Badger, Havenstein was a first-team All-American as a senior. As a result, the Rams used their second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to snag him. The 29-year-old won the Offensive Lineman of the Year award in 2018. He was also on the All-Rookie Team in 2015.
While his career wasn’t as star-studded as Havenstein, Kerr is also a veteran of the league. However, his achievements aren’t as gaudy.
Kerr was born in Virginia Beach but moved to Maryland and played high school football in Gaithersburg. Afterward, he played at the University of Delaware and signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2014.
He played for the Colts, Broncos, Cardinals, Panthers and 49ers before becoming a Bengal. He was a huge underdog to make this list simply because he has been a Bengal for only two games. Cincinnati signed him off the Cardinals’ practice squad on Jan. 19, just before the divisional playoff victory over the Titans.
Finally, Prince is a second-year offensive tackle from Greenbelt, Md. The Ohio State Buckeye was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft but was claimed off waivers by the Bengals at the end of the year.
Honorary Marylanders making Super Bowl appearances
I created this category solely for:
- Rams outside linebacker Terrell Lewis
He played high school football at St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC, and for the legendary Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.
The Rams drafted Lewis in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In his second year, Lewis played in 11 games and recorded three sacks and 13 solo tackles.
I know he’s a DC native and not technically from Maryland. But this poor guy can’t even say he grew up in a state. He grew up in a district. Since the Commanders represent DC and their home field is in Maryland, I’m giving Lewis a pass and putting him on the list.
The “I spent time in Maryland” group
This group’s ties to Maryland are the weakest of all. In fact, they’re so weak that I’m not going to write out the explanation.
Here’s a chart to display the ties without all the keystrokes:
|Name||Team||Position||Ties To Maryland|
|Samaje Perine||Bengals||Running back||Played two seasons with the Washington Football Team|
|Kevin O'Connell||Rams||Offensive coordinator||Was part of the coaching staff in Washington between 2017-2019|
|Darrin Simmons||Bengals||Assistant head coach||Was the special teams coordinator for the Ravens in 1998|