Former Badgers in NFL playoffs: Look at their journeys, Super Bowl legacies

Exploring paths, performances, Super Bowl legacies of Wisconsin's NFL playoff contenders

· Feb 11, 2024 Tweet

Soren Goldsmith/The Badger Herald

This season, 14 former Badgers competed in the NFL playoffs, including Super Bowl bound Leo Chenal, a second-year linebacker for the Chiefs who won the Super Bowl in 2022.

In this article, we’ll go through those 14 Badgers and their paths to the playoffs, as well as some historic past performances from former Badgers — and Super Bowl champions — James White and Corey Clement.

Kansas City Chiefs

Chenal is the only former Badger to compete in this year’s Super Bowl, which is also the fourth in the last five years that will feature the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chenal was selected by the Chiefs in the third round in 2022 with the 103rd pick, playing in 14 regular season games as well as Super Bowl LVII. Chenal registered 41 tackles and two sacks, one of which came in the Super Bowl, as the Chiefs went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38–35.

This season, Chenal shook off any first-year jitters, playing in 16 regular season games and all three playoff games. Chenal nearly doubled his first-year stats, registering 84 tackles and three sacks and will play for a chance at his second Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said, “Sometimes a place like Wisconsin is a stylistic match.”

This past season, the Steelers drafted two former Badgers in the NFL draft — defensive tackle Keeanu Benton in the second round and linebacker Nick Herbig in the fourth round.

The additions of Benton and Herbig to the Steelers’ roster brings the former Badger tally up to five, including former Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk and offensive tackle Tyler Beach.

Tomlin continued his streak of 17 consecutive seasons with a positive record, sending the Steelers to Wild Card Weekend this season with a 10-8 record.

Unfortunately for Tomlin and the former Badgers, Watt was ruled out of the game against the Buffalo Bills with a knee injury and though Herbig filled in for him on the defensive line, the Steelers were not able to come away with a win.

Though the Steelers’ season was cut short in the playoffs, Watt registered a league-high 19 sacks in the regular season, while Herbig and Benton forced two fumbles each.

Watt was one of three Steelers and one of four playoff-making former Badgers to be named to the NFL Pro Bowl this season, as he recorded a career-high 68 tackles alongside four forced fumbles and a pick-six.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are the home of two former Badgers — center Tyler Biadasz and tight end Jake Ferguson.

Both Biadasz and Ferguson were selected by the Cowboys in the 4th round — Biadasz with the 146th pick in 2020 and Ferguson with the 129th pick in 2022.

Ferguson had a breakout season this year, increasing his receptions from 19 last year to 71 this year and adding 761 yards and five touchdowns to his career stats, ending the regular season with a deserved Pro Bowl nomination.

During the playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, Biadasz played in 100% of the offensive snaps, while Ferguson scored three touchdowns on only 12 targets. To cap the season off, ESPN analyst Matt Bowen named Ferguson one of this seasons most impressive players.

“[Ferguson] played a defined role in Dallas this season,” Bowen said.

Although the Cowboys fell in the Wild Card, it was surely a bittersweet moment for Wisconsinites as the Packers advanced to play in their fourth NFC Divisional Championship in the last five years.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are also home to two former Badgers on their roster, fifth-year fullback Alec Ingold and fifth-year linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.

Ingold was signed by the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders after going undrafted, only signing with the Dolphins in 2022 and has been used primarily as a receiver during his time in the NFL.

This season Ingold received a career-high 119 yards on only 13 receptions and capped his season off by being named for the Pro Bowl and signing a three-year contract extension with the Dolphins.

Van Ginkel was drafted by the Dolphins in 2019 in the fifth-round with pick 151 and this season he registered a career-high six sacks alongside 69 tackles and a fumble recovery. Unfortunately, Van Ginkel was ruled out of the playoffs after suffering a foot injury in Week 17, leaving Dolphins fans to speculate what could’ve been this postseason.

Houston Texans

The Texans are the final playoff team to have two former Badgers on their roster in running back Dare Ogunbowale and center Michael Deiter.

Ogunbowale was initially signed by the Washington Commanders in 2017 before getting his first real shot in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. After a stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ogunbowale most recently signed for the Texans in 2022, compiling 50 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown.

Ogunbowale also had the most unique highlight out of any former Badger this season, becoming the second non-kicker in NFL history to kick a field goal during the regular season. After a quad injury to Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbarn ruled him out of the game, Ogunbowale, with his soccer background, made a 29 yard field goal that ended up giving the Texans the win.

Deiter was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2019 in the third round with the 78th pick and was signed as a free agent by the Texans this season. Deiter played every single offensive snap in both of the Texans playoff games, protecting rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Baltimore Ravens

Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler is the only former Badger currently playing for the Ravens, but even in his 13th year in the NFL, Zeitler played in 98% of offensive snaps over the Ravens’ two playoff games, picking up his first career playoff win and first Pro Bowl appearance

Zeitler was also a finalist for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award this season by “represent[ing] teamwork, competitiveness, hard work and integrity, while on the field,” according to Larry Fitzgerald, former-NFL player and inaugural winner of the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills only have one former Badger on their roster, offensive guard David Edwards, but Edwards had the most heartwarming story of any former Badger this season. Edwards signed with the Bills at the beginning of this season after being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 in the fifth round with the 169th pick.

Aside from his on-the-field accomplishments this season, Edwards welcomed a new daughter in January and on his way to the hospital to pick his wife and newborn up, Edwards became trapped in a snowstorm when his car lost traction and became stuck in a snowbank.

Luckily, nearby auto shop owner Dennis Miller was able to come to the rescue. Miller drove Edwards to the hospital and gave Edwards an escort back to his house, where Edwards and his family were able to safely return.

Super Bowls LI and LII 

There is not likely to be a better story than two former Badgers going head to head for the Super Bowl, let alone if they both scored, right?

In 2018, Badger fans were celebrating both sides of one of the best Super Bowls of recent memory. In Tom Brady’s last playoff appearance as a New England Patriot, the underlying storyline came between James White and Corey Clement, of the Patriots and Eagles respectively.

The Eagles jumped to a 6–3 lead by the end of the first quarter, but just two minutes before halftime White broke out for a 26-yard rushing touchdown to bring the game within three points.

In the second half, Clement was not to be outdone by White, scoring a 22-yard receiving touchdown to extend the Eagles lead to 10 points and the Eagles never looked back.

The battle between the Badgers in 2018 wasn’t the only time White scored a touchdown in a Super Bowl, but his previous score was slightly more significant than his in 2018.

In 2017, the Patriots faced off against the Atlanta Falcons in a game that by the third quarter looked to be over as the Falcons led 28–3. Not one to give up, Brady and the Patriots began what was to be the largest-ever Super Bowl comeback in history with a touchdown from none other than White to end the third quarter.

The Patriots used that momentum into the fourth quarter, scoring a staggering 19 points unanswered, including a James White rushing touchdown and two-point conversion, to send the game to the first-ever Super Bowl overtime.

Never letting up on the gas, only eight plays into overtime James White himself fought off four Falcons to dive into the endzone, sealing his first Super Bowl and capping off the biggest game of his career.

As much action as the former Badgers had in 2023, only more can be expected in 2024 as these former Badgers continue to be successful both on and off the field.

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This article was published Feb 11, 2024 at 10:00 am and last updated Feb 9, 2024 at 10:18 am

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