By Nick Pasco
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]y now everyone knows that the Super Bowl may be the last game of Peyton Manning’s career and that Cam Newton is a budding star who may eventually assume the mantle as face of the league. Since we get two weeks of nonstop Super Bowl coverage, those two storylines, while extremely relevant, have us yearning for other notable nuggets to sink our teeth into before we gorge ourselves on wings, chips, and copious amounts of delicious, tummy-soothing guacamole, which we’ll no doubt wash down with hop-heavy craft brews.
Since our beloved local franchises weren’t good enough to even make the playoffs, we’ve been stuck in a torturous malaise since the end of the regular season. Finally, the season is coming to an end and pitchers and catchers will be reporting in a matter of weeks, so we have something else to look forward to. But before you sit down and power on your brand new flat screen, check out some Super Bowl storylines that haven’t gotten as much attention in the lead-up to this year’s Manning Retirement Bowl.
1. Thomas Davis: Davis has had some tough luck. The linebacker tore his ACL in the same knee three years in a row, from 2009, 2010, and 2011. To his credit, Davis has not given up. He is reportedly the only known player to battle back from three ACL tears throughout his career. On top of that, Davis broke his right forearm in the NFC Championship game wipeout of the Arizona Cardinals. Davis says he will play despite the fact he has 12 screws and a metal plate in his arm.
2. Cam Newton/Von Miller: Carolina QB Cam Newton and Denver pass-rush extraordinaire Von Miller were taken No. 1 and 2 in the 2011 NFL Draft. Now the dynamic athletes find themselves opposing each other in the biggest game of their careers. When Newton steps up behind center, he’ll no doubt be paying close attention to Miller out of the corner of his eye, given the linebacker’s dominant performance against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game. Newton is no slouch himself. Should be fun.
3. Jared Allen/DeMarcus Ware: Allen and Ware, two of the most ferocious pass rushers in the league for the past decade, sit atop the list of active sack leaders and are both 33 years old. The veteran QB chasers will both be playing in their first Super Bowl after previously falling short with their former teams. Allen is tied with Green Bay’s Julius Peppers with 136 career sacks and Ware is right behind with 134.5 sacks.
4. Demaryius Thomas: Thomas’ mother Katin Smith was recently released from prison after serving 15 years for a drug trafficking charge, which came with a 20-year sentence. Smith in November was released to a halfway house after President Obama commuted her sentence, along with 45 other federal prisoners. On Jan. 17, Smith for the first time watched her son play on an NFL field when the Broncos battled the Steelers in the AFC Divisional Round game. After the Broncos’ big win, Thomas gave the game ball to his mom. On Sunday, she’ll be in San Francisco to watch her son play in the Super Bowl.
5.Ron Rivera: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera can make history in a few ways Sunday if Carolina comes out on top. He can join three other head coaches who won a Super Bowl both as a player and a head coach. Rivera could also be the second coach in history with Hispanic roots to win the big game.
6. Michael Oher: A year after struggling with injuries as a Tennessee Titan, Oher, the inspiration for the book The Blind Side and the hit film of the same name, was recruited to join the Panthers by Cam Newton because the quarterback’s brother Cecil played with him in Baltimore, albeit as a member of the practice squad. Oher, whose tough childhood was documented in the popular film and whom bounced back after being waived by Tennessee, has yet to give up a sack in the playoffs.
7. Greg Olsen: Olsen, who is the Panthers’ top option on offense, is making waves off the field for a good cause. Olsen is selling retro t-shirts showing some of the Panthers players on a trip to California for the Super Bowl. The shirts are selling for $25 each, with proceeds going to Olsen’s “HEARTest Yard” program, which helps families of children with congenital heart defects.
8. Ted Ginn Jr.: The Panthers wideout and former ninth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft was once considered a bust not too long ago, after failing to live up to his billing as a play-making receiver. After bouncing around the league, which included stops in San Francisco, Carolina, and Arizona, Ginn is back with the Panthers, but this time performing like the player Miami thought they were getting when they invested a top-10 pick on him nine years ago.
9. Jerricho Cotchery: Jerricho Cotchery, a former Jet, has come a long way since joining a gang at age 12 in Birmingham, Alabama, and surviving a car wreck that killed his friend. Cotchery, an Ed Block Courage Award winner, which is given to players who demonstrate sportsmanship and courage, is also a highly religious man and a great locker room presence and ultimate professional. The 33-year-old is a very reliable possession receiver for the Panthers.
10. Corey Brown/ Bradley Roby: Corey Brown, a Panthers wideout, and Bradley Roby, a Broncos corner, will most certainly face each other at some point during Sunday’s game. While their matchup is not a hot topic, what is interesting is they were roommates in college when they played at Ohio State.