At some point or another, throughout the history of the Super Bowl, a former Clemson player has made an impact in the world’s biggest game.
Running back Bill Mathis played a big part in the New York Jets’ game plan in Super Bowl III, which allowed the Jets to soften up a Baltimore Colts defense with short and accurate screen passes in what is still considered the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.
Defensive back Charlie Waters played big roles for the Dallas Cowboys as a cornerback and safety in five Super Bowl appearances. He helped the Cowboys win Super Bowls VI and XII.
Two former Tigers helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win three of their four Super Bowls in the 1970s and coincidentally they both wore the No. 89 and they both played the tight end position. John McMakin was a part of the Steelers’ first Super Bowl title in 1974 (Super Bowl IX), while Cunningham played on the Steelers teams that won Super Bowls XIII and XIV.
Cunningham was actually the lead blocker for Franco Harris’ first touchdown run in Super Bowl XIV.
Wide receiver Dwight Clark and defensive tackle Jim Stuckey helped the San Francisco 49ers win two Super Bowls in the 1980s, while Jeff Bostic became the first and only former Tiger to win three Super Bowls as the starting center for the Washington Redskins in the 1980s and 90s.
Of course, who can forget William Perry in Super Bowl XX. The Fridge had a couple of tackles and scored on a 1-yard touchdown in Chicago’s blowout win over New England. It is still the only Super Bowl in which a former Tiger scored a touchdown.
Former Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins made a big impact for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV last year in Miami.
Watkins caught five passes in the game for 98 yards, including a 38-yard catch to set up the game-winning touchdown with 3:44 to play in the Chiefs’ 31-20 come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Watkins’ 38-yard catch over Richard Sherman moved the football to the 49ers’ 10-yard line. Kansas City scored the game-winner three plays later on a Damien Williams’ 5-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes.
Watkins also made a 28-yard reception in the first quarter, the biggest play of the drive, which led to a Mahomes’ 1-yard run with 31 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
Watkins’ former Clemson teammate, Bashaud Breeland was arguably the Chiefs’ Most Valuable Defensive Player in Super Bowl LIV. The former Tiger led Kansas City with seven tackles, including two for loss. He also broke up one pass, and his second-quarter interception allowed the Chiefs to take a 10-3 lead with a Harrison Butker 31-yard field goal with 9:32 to play in first half.
Grady Jarrett was unbelievable in a losing effort for Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. He sacked Tom Brady three times in the game, which is still tied for a Super Bowl record. Levon Kirkland played a great game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX in a losing effort against Dallas, including a key sack on Troy Aikman that gave the Steelers an opportunity to win the game late.
But no former Clemson player made the impact Watkins and Breeland made in a winning effort in a Super Bowl. Watkins was the most consistent wide receiver the Chiefs had all night. His ability to get open eventually opened things up for Tyreek Hill and others in the Kansas City offense.
However, it was Watkins’ 38-yard reception on the go-ahead touchdown drive that was the biggest play of the evening for the Chiefs. With 3:44 to play in the game and facing a second-and-seven from the 49ers’ 48, Watkins made a double move on future Hall of Famer Richard Sherman, which allowed Mahomes to find him 38 yards down the near sideline to the 49ers’ 10-yard line.
Three plays later, Mahomes found Williams for the 5-yard game winner with 2:44 to play. Williams later had a 38-yard touchdown to seal Kansas City’s come-from-behind victory.
Will a former Tiger leave his mark in Super Bowl LV?
Watkins and Breeland, along with former Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, are back for a second time, while punter Bradley Pinion is playing in his first Super Bowl on Sunday.