Four former Chippewas--Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Green Bay's Josh Gordy, Cullen Jenkins and Frank Zombo--will be part of Sunday's world championship game.
Central Michigan University's contingent of four representatives is tied for the most of any college program in the country. Ohio State, LSU and Tennessee join CMU with four former players in the game.
Each of the four Chippewas has taken a unique road to Sunday's game.
Jenkins, in his seventh season with the Packers, is the veteran of the group. After a collegiate career that saw him earn four varsity letters (1999-02), Jenkins was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He was waived in August and spent the 2003 season out of football before resigning with the Packers prior to the 2004 campaign.
His career took off in 2004. After playing for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe in the spring, he appeared in all 16 games for the Packers in the fall, making six starts, and tied for second on the team with 4.5 tackles for loss. In his professional debut, Jenkins faced his older brother, Kris, who at the time was playing for the Carolina Panthers.
Jenkins has played in all 16 of the Packers' regular season games four times in his seven seasons, making 194 tackles and 29 sacks in his career.
Each of the other three Chippewas in the game is finishing his rookie season.
Both Zombo and Gordy arrived in Mount Pleasant in 2005. As redshirt freshmen in 2006, they embarked on careers that included three Mid-American Conference championships, four bowl game appearances, two bowl victories and a top-25 national ranking in 2009.
Neither was drafted last spring. Zombo signed with the Packers, made the final roster, and was in the starting lineup by week three. Slowed by an injury late in the season, he has still managed to play in 13 games as a rookie, making eight starts; for the season, Zombo has registered 38 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.
Gordy originally signed with Jacksonville following the 2010 NFL Draft but was waived during the preseason. Green Bay signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 15 before promoting him to the active roster. He has played in two games during his rookie season.
Brown's rookie season in Pittsburgh has included several highlight-reel moments. The first time he touched the ball in a regular season game, in week two against Tennessee, Brown returned the game's opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. In the Steelers' 31-24 win over Baltimore in the divisional round of the playoffs, Brown made a spectacular 58-yard reception on third-and-19 with two minutes remaining to set up the game-winning touchdown. In the AFC Championship Game, Brown made a 14-yard catch on third-and-six with less than two minutes remaining that sealed the victory.
By late Sunday night, the long and winding road to the Super Bowl will end with at least one Chippewa winning a world championship. For the victor, it will be well worth the wait.
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