Although just two teams remain this NFL season, there are still a number of faces that are familiar to those who watch the University of Wisconsin football team. In fact, five former Badgers will be either playing or coaching in Super Bowl XLVIII for the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos. Between them, they have five Rose Bowl appearances, but each of them will try to hoist the Lombardi Trophy with their respective teams Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Team: Seattle Seahawks, Position: Quarterback, Experience: 2 years
Since foregoing a career in major league baseball, transferring to UW from North Carolina State and leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl in 2012 in his only season with the program, Russell Wilson has taken the NFL by storm.
Measuring in at just 5-foot-11, many NFL scouts had doubts about Wilson’s ability to succeed at the professional level. The Seattle Seahawks, however, saw his athletic ability and composure as reason enough to draft him with the 75th overall pick in the third round of the 2012 draft to compete with former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn.
After beating out Flynn in the preseason, Wilson took a stranglehold on the Seahawks offense, putting together a rookie season that would earn him a third place in the voting for offensive rookie of the year behind only Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
Now in his second season as the signal caller in Seattle, Wilson has played well enough to put him in the conversation of league MVP, throwing for 3,357 yards and 26 touchdowns and doing so without some of his best receiving threats because Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice were out of the lineup for most of the season.
Team: Denver Broncos, Position: Running back, Experience: Rookie
After deciding to wait on the NFL and return to Madison for his senior season with Wisconsin, Montee Ball put up numbers that have never been seen in college football. Ball broke the NCAA record for most touchdowns in a career with 83 during his four years at Wisconsin while going to three straight Rose Bowls with the Badgers.
The Denver Broncos selected Ball with the 58th-overall pick in the second round, but fumbling and pass protection issues kept the former Badger from seeing consistent time on the field during the first half of the season. In the latter half of his rookie campaign, Ball began to assume the role of a complementary back to starting tailback Knowshon Moreno, getting some third down and goal line opportunities.
With his limited touches Ball was able to rack up 559 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per rush.
After going to three-straight Rose Bowls to end his career at Wisconsin, Ball goes to the Super Bowl in his first year in the NFL, admitting “a lot of players in the locker room tell me I’m spoiled” at the Super Bowl media day.
Team: Seattle Seahawks, Position: Linebacker, Experience: 4 years
Playing defensive end for Wisconsin from 2006 to 2009, O’Brien Schofield made his presence known on the defensive side of the ball, totaling 33 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks. During his senior season in 2009, Schofield ranked second in the nation in tackles for a loss with 24.5 to go with 12 sacks, which earned him a spot on the first All-Big Ten Team.
The Arizona Cardinals drafted the South Carolina native in the fourth round with the 130th pick and converted him to outside linebacker. After playing three seasons in Arizona, Schofield was released by the Cardinals in 2013 and claimed off of waivers by the Seahawks.
In Seattle, Schofield seldom sees the field in a talent-loaded defense that has been coined the “legion of boom.” In his time on the field this season the former Badger picked up seven tackles and a sack.
Team: Seattle Seahawks, Position: Safety, Experience: 4 years
Chris Maragos has been an unheralded player since he left high school—walking on to Western Michigan and then transferring to Wisconsin, where he would switch sides of the ball and play safety. Although Maragos led the Badgers with four interceptions his senior season in 2009 and received honorable mention All-Big Ten, the Racine Native went undrafted in the 2010 NFL draft.
Maragos was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers but was cut after just one year with the team which opened the door for the 5-foot-10 converted safety from Wisconsin to join Seattle in 2011.
Time on the field isn’t easy to come by for Maragos, who plays behind Seattle’s 3-time all-pro free safety Earl Thomas, but in the playing time he has had Maragos grabbed 12 tackles, including one in the NFC championship game against the 49ers this post season.
Team: Seattle Seahawks, Position: Offensive coordinator, Experience: 14 years as NFL assistant coach
As the starting quarterback for Wisconsin in 1993, Darrell Bevell led the Badgers to a 10-1-1 record and a spot in the 1994 Rose Bowl, where they beat UCLA 21-16 on a 21-yard run by Bevell, which put the game out of reach and secured Wisconsin’s first Rose Bowl win.
As coach in the NFL, Bevell has made stops in Green Bay and Minnesota before landing in Seattle as head coach Pete Carroll’s offense coordinator in 2011. Now in his third season manning the Seahawks’ offense Bevell has the team ranked 8th in the NFL in points per game and 4th in rushing yards this season.