Look Who Will Have The Most Players In The Super Bowl?

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Story by: By Steve Politi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 23, 2017 at 7:20 AM, updated January 23, 2017 at 5:22 PM


So this is how the two-week-long recruiting video begins ...

Here is Mohamed Sanu, the talented Atlanta Falcons receiver, making a difficult catch for a touchdown in a second-straight playoff game and proving once again that he is an integral part of what has quickly become the NFL's most dangerous offense.

And here are Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, just one game removed from each intercepting a pass in the same postseason game, helping the New England Patriots shut down yet another top opponent as they march to their second Super Bowl in three years.

Sanu will be on one team in the NFL's biggest game. The defensive-back trio -- the DB3, for short -- will be on the other. Rutgers has endured some rough days over the past two years, and maybe nothing that happens in Houston two weeks from Sunday will erase the sting of a 2-10 season that included a 78-0 blowout loss to conference rival Michigan.

But, given the matchup, Super Bowl LI might as well be Super Bowl RU. Rutgers -- yes, Rutgers -- will have more players on the combined rosters than any other college team, more than Alabama, more than LSU and Stanford, and more than twice as many as any other Big Ten team.  

"I think it shows that you don't necessarily have to chase a logo to make it in the NFL," Rutgers head coach Chris Ash told NJ Advance Media. "I'm very excited for those players and proud of the way they represent Rutgers."

Ash didn't coach the current Rutgers alums in the NFL, but he's gotten to know them. He was at an airport on Sunday night during the AFC and NFC championship games, scrambling to put the final pieces together on his first full recruiting class as head coach. That, more that anything, will consume him untilnational signing day on February 1. 

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But he'll head into those final meetings with high school players armed with one more weapon. Most top high school prospects have one thing in mind when they're picking a college, and that's getting the exposure and coaching necessary for that big payday in the pros. 

"Everyone goes into college with a dream and a goal of having a chance to play in the NFL," Ash said. "And everyone thinks you have to play at this school or that school to make it."

Ash doesn't have make that argument. He'll have Bill Belichick making it for him in the coming days with each press conference he attends in Houston. The Patriots head coach is notoriously tight-lipped on many topics, but he is as gushing as an admissions-office tour guide when asked about Rutgers.

Who can blame him? It isn't just his friendship with former coach Greg Schiano, who invited the four-time Super Bowl winning coach to ride on the team bus during road trips. His son, Steve Belichick, is a Rutgers graduate who played lacrosse for the Scarlet Knights and walked on to the football team as a long snapper.

Steve Belichick is now a defensive backs coach for the Patriots, working with his three former teammates on a daily basis. The three players and their coach were featured in a video on the Patriots website, with McCourty wearing a T-shirt honoring his former teammate Eric LeGrand and all four talking about the bond they formed in Piscataway.

Add injured linebacker Jonathan Freeny, and the Patriots have given the Scarlet Knights an unprecedented presence in the big game ... until, of course, you remember that the four Scarlet Knights earned a championship ring the last time New England won the title.

"What do you think, Dev? Should we bring our rings back to Piscataway?" Harmon asked old his friend, a championship T-shirt pulled over this shoulder pads, during that celebration.

"Oh, man," McCourty replied. "My ring is going with me everywhere. As soon as they give it to me and right until training camp!"

Sanu and the Falcons are the newcomers to this game. The fifth-year pro has nine catches for 96 yard and two touchdowns in the two playoff victories, and in a moment that had to give flashbacks to all Rutgers fans, even gained seven yards in the wildcat formation in the team's victory on Sunday over the Green Bay Packers.

"That's a special guy and he came up big," head coach Dan Quinn said after the 44-21 victory. "Julio (Jones) does his thing, but Sanu does his thing, too, and we need it. We need all of that."

Chances are, Quinn -- a Morristown native -- will need Sanu to have another big night in Houston, and he might have to do it lined up against Logan Ryan, his freshman roommate in Piscataway years ago.

Has that ever happened in Super Bowl history? Who knows. But the biggest football game of the season is about to become a Rutgers recruiting video with 100 million viewers across the country.

Rutgers -- yes, Rutgers -- will have more players than any college team in Super Bowl RU ... er, LI. With less than two weeks before signing day, Ash and the Scarlet Knights are already winners. 

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