Tigers Guaranteed a Super Bowl Winner

The results of the NFL playoffs the weekend of January 14-15 guarantee Clemson will have a former player earn a Super Bowl Championship Ring this year.

Clemson is one of six schools to have a former player represented on each of the remaining NFL teams in the league playoffs. Over the years 19 different former Clemson players have been on the Super Bowl Champion 27 times.

The former Tigers still involved in the NFL playoffs are all starters and include linebacker Leroy Hill of the Seattle Seahawks, defensive tackle Brentson Buckner of the Carolina Panthers, punter Chris Gardocki of the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive end Trevor Pryce of the Denver Broncos. Pryce is the only one of the four who has already won a Super Bowl Ring.

The other schools with at least one player on each of the NFL teams still involved in the playoffs are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Penn State and Utah In addition to the four players listed above, the Tigers have three former players on the Practice Squad of teams involved in the playoffs. That list includes Bryant McNeal and William Henry with the Seattle Seahawks and Khaleed Vaughn with the Carolina Panthers.

Gardocki is in his 15th year in the NFL, his second with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His 15 years of service and 228 games played are record totals for any former Clemson player in the NFL. This season, Gardocki started all 16 games as the Steelers punter and had a 41.8 average on 67 punts, including 22 punts inside the 20. It marked the 11th consecutive year that Gardocki had averaged at least 41 yards per punt. He started the NFL playoffs in grand style with a 47-yard average on three punts against Jacksonville and followed that with a 41-yard average in the win at Indianapolis.

Gardocki, who has never played in the Super Bowl, but is a veteran of numerous playoff games, holds the NFL record for consecutive punts without a block. He now has 1112 career punts without a block, nearly double the previous record of 624 by Dave Jennings, who played with the New York Giants. Gardocki was named to the Pro Bowl in 1996 when he had a 45.7 average. He has also never lost a fumble on 1112 career punts.

A native of Stone Mountain, GA, Gardocki was a two-time All-American at Clemson (1989 and 1990). He ranked in the top 10 in the nation in field goals per game and punting in 1989 and 1990, the only player in college football history to have a top 10 ranking in both areas, in two different seasons. Buckner is in his 12th season in the NFL, tied for the third longest NFL career among former Tigers. He is a veteran of 174 career games, sixth on the list of former Clemson players. The Panthers victory at Chicago was his 14th career playoff game, his sixth with the Panthers.

A starter in every game he played this year, Buckner had 43 tackles, a sack and five tackles for loss during the regular season for Carolina, who ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing defense thanks to Buckner's play. He has 487 career regular season tackles, and obviously will need just 13 next year to reach the 500 mark for his career.

Buckner has played in three NFL conference championship games in his career and has played in two Super Bowls, one with Pittsburgh (1995 season) and one with Carolina (2003 season). The native of Columbus, GA was a two-time first-team All-ACC player with the Tigers (1992-93) and was a starter on Clemson's 1991 ACC Championship team that led the nation in rushing defense. Pryce has already been on two Super Bowl Championship teams with Denver, the 1997 and 1998 Bronco teams led by John Elway. He could tie the record for Super Bowl Championship rings by a Clemson player if the Broncos win Super Bowl XXXX. Jeff Bostic won three with the Washington Redskins.

The native of Winter Park, FL is also a four-time Pro Bowl selection. This season, Pryce started all 15 games he played and had 33 tackles, including 31 first hits. He has four sacks, giving him 64 for his career, among the top 10 totals among active NFL players. Now in his ninth year in the NFL, Pryce has played in 121 career NFL games.

Pryce, who transferred to Clemson from Michigan after the 1994 season, was a first-team All-ACC player for the Tigers in 1996 as a defensive tackle. He had 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks that year helping him to become a first-round draft choice by the Broncos. Hill is in his rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks and has had a stellar first season. The linebacker started the last nine regular season games for Mike Holmgren's team and is the third leading tackler on the club for the season with 72 tackles. He had 7.5 sacks to rank among the top NFL rookies and has 13 tackles for loss. In the Seahawks playoff game against the Washington Redskins this past weekend he added nine tackles to his total. A third-round selection last year, Hill got his chance when Seahawks starter Jamie Sharper, a former Virginia player, was injured and lost for the season.

Hill was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 when he had 106 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss to lead the ACC. Hill was a third-team AP All-American in 2004 and a first-team All-ACC player in 2003 and 2004. The last former Tiger to play on a Super Bowl Championship team was James Trapp with Baltimore Ravens in 2000. Clemson had two players in the Super Bowl last year, but the Philadelphia Eagles with Brian Dawkins and Keith Adams, lost to the New England Patriots.

Clemson's Super Bowl Champions
(27 rings for 19 Players) Dan Benish, DT 1987 Washington Redskins
Jeff Bostic, C 1982, 87, 91 Washington Redskins
Dwight Clark, WR 1981, 84 San Francisco 49ers
Bennie Cunningham, TE 1977, 78 Pittsburgh Steelers
Terrence Flagler, RB 1988, 89 San Francisco 49ers
Steve Fuller, QB 1985 Chicago Bears
Andy Headen, DE 1986 New York Giants
Tony Horne, WR 1999 St. Louis Rams
Terry Kinard, FS 1986 New York Giants
Bill Mathis, RB 1969 New York Jets
Dexter McCleon, CB 1999 St. Louis Rams
John McMakin, TE 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers
William Perry, DT 1985 Chicago Bears
Trevor Pryce, DT 1997, 98 Denver Broncos
Wayne Simmons, LB 1996 Green Bay Packers
Archie Reese, DT 1981 San Francisco 49ers
Jim Stuckey, DT 1981, 84 San Francisco 49ers
James Trapp, DB 2000 Baltimore Ravens
Charlie Waters, S 1971, 77 Dallas Cowboys

CUTigers.com Top Stories