As we are all painfully aware, the Minnesota Vikings got nowhere near to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl this past 2020 season, bottoming out at a disappointing 7-9. However, despite this let down, the gopher state was not entirely absent from this past Sunday’s Super Bowl, as the effects of Minnesota football could still undoubtedly be felt. On the rosters of both the Kansas City Chiefs as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be found players who paid their dues in Minnesota, having played either professional or collegiate football in the Land of 10,000 lakes. Though the purple and gold didn’t suit up last week in Tampa Bay, the Minnesota gridiron still had its part to play in the eventual 31-9 Buccaneers victory.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Damien Wilson – Born May 28th, 1993, in Gloster, Mississippi, Wilson began his football career at Amite High School. Though he accepted a scholarship to Alcorn State University, a historically black university in Lorman, Mississippi, following a lackluster freshman season, Wilson made the decision to transfer to Jones County Junior College. There he gained enough attention to eventually be picked up by the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to round out their linebacking corps. Wilson flourished in Minnesota, being named to the All-Big Ten Conference Team in 2014, attracting significant NFL attention in the process. Following his career as a Gopher, Wilson entered the 2015 NFL draft, where he was taken in the fourth round with the 127th overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys. While with the Cowboys, Wilson saw limited starting time. He played mostly in a backup and special teams role and tallied 86 solo tackles and 2.5 sacks in his four years with the team. In 2019, Wilson was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs, signing a $5.75 million two-year contract. Much like he did in Dallas, the former Gopher plays an important role in Kansas City’s linebacker depth. Wilson totaled 98 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks during his two years with the Chiefs.
Mike Remmers – Born April 11th, 1989, Remmers flourished as an offensive tackle at Jesuit High School in his native Portland, Oregon, before eventually taking his talents to Oregon State University. Despite starting 44 games and being named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention during his junior year, Remmers went undrafted in 2012. Remmers would then jump around the NFL for the next nine years, playing for six teams in the NFL. He eventually landed with his current squad the Kansas City Chiefs. However, during that time as a journeyman, Remmers found himself in Minnesota twice, playing for the Vikings in 2013 as well as from 2017-2018, starting 27 games for the purple and gold.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Tyler Johnson – A native kid growing up in the Twin Cities, Johnson attended North Community High School in Minneapolis. He kept his talents local by accepting a scholarship offer from the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Johnson became a favorite target for Minnesota quarterbacks during his time as a Gopher. He tallied 3,305 yards and 213 receptions over his four-year college career, culminating in his selection to the First Team All-Big Ten in both 2018 and 2019. Johnson’s successful collegiate career attracted significant NFL attention. It was enough for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to select him in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL draft with the 161st overall pick. While Johnson played a minimal role in Tampa Bay’s absurdly stacked receiving core during his rookie season, totalling just 169 yards on 12 receptions, it is hard to imagine that the former Gopher will complain about the hardware that is coming his way after Tampa’s win last Sunday.
Antoine Winfield Jr. – Another member of the University of Minnesota’s 2020 NFL draft class, Winfield entered the draft process with significantly more hype, and well deserved hype at that considering the accolades he had received during his three seasons as a Gopher. A pivotal part of Minnesota’s recent success, in 2019 alone Winfield was named to the First Team All-Big Ten, was a unanimous All American, and was awarded the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award. Looking to shore up their secondary, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Winfield in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft with the 45th overall pick (frankly, he should have gone much sooner, but only dropped due to injury concerns). Living up to his high draft stock, Winfield had a monster rookie season, recording 94 tackles, three sacks, six pass deflections, one interception, and two forced fumbles,, en route to being named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team. Winfield also played a crucial role in the Buccaneers Super Bowl win, tallying six tackles, an interception, and one devastating peace sign in Tyreek Hill’s face.