It Used to be "The Curse of the Wildcats"

It's quickly gone from none to 3 NU Wildcat football alums who got a Super Bowl winner's Ring. Pittsburgh's Trai Essex "broke" the curse in 2006, but over the History of Pro Football, the NU Wildcats had a far better record in the AFL and NFL Championships. Here's the full story, including a list of NU Alums who have played in the NFL/AFL Championship games since 1933.

There's a dubious Northwestern record that finally ended in 2006.
Here at Purple Reign we called it the "Curse of the Wildcats" but originally it was called the "Wildcat Factor" in some west coast newspapers, a story thread started by a comment from long time NU fan Jim [the Haze] Bendat, that "no team with a Northwestern Alumnus on its active roster had ever won the Super Bowl."

Jim was right then, and back in 2005, ten NU Alums had made it to the big game, playing in fifteen of them, and all but one a loss for their AP Photorespective team. Three other Alums are listed by NU as playing for Super Bowl teams, but were injured and did not play in the games. It doesn't matter, their teams also lost.

Finally, the 2006 Super Bowl marked the end of the curse, as former Wildcats' Trai Essex (Pittsburgh) and Kevin Bentley (Seattle) met on the field. Essex' Steeler team won that night and the "curse" was over.

The worse record in the "super game" is held by Steve Tasker [left], who played in four losing efforts with the Buffalo Bills. Steve Craig and Jim Lash played together on the Viking team that lost to Pittsburgh in 1975.

But the Cats are not without wins in NFL Championship games.

NU's Otto Graham [below] played in an NU record 6 NFL Championships for the Cleveland Browns, 1950-1955, and won 3. New York Giant [and NU] great AP Steve NesiusRay Wietecha played in 5 NFL Championships 1956-1952, including the 1958 game with Baltimore, called "the greatest game ever played."

Over in the AFL, Houston Oiler Mark Johnson played in the first AFL Championship, a win over the Chargers. If you run down the lists below, you'll find that a Northwestern alum has been present, and participating in many of of the great Pro Football Championship games in the past.

We don't have records of the Canadian League, although several NU Alums have also played in that league's Grey Cup Championship game.

To start off, here are the 11 Wildcats who were eligible to play in the Super Bowl and their game information:
Previous Super Bowls
  • Darryl Ashmore - Oakland Raiders 1998-2002:
    • 2002 - Injured Reserve
  • Kevin Bentley - Seattle Seahawks 2005-06 
    • 2006 - Seattle lost to Pittsburgh
  • Bob Christian Atlanta Falcons 1997-2003:
    • 2002 - Injured reserve
  • Barry Cofield - New York Giants 2007 -2009
    • 2008 Win over New England
  • Steve Craig Minnesota Vikings 1974-78:
    • 1975-Sub in loss to Pittsburgh 16-6
    • 1977-Sub in loss to Oakland 32-14
  • Trai Essex - Pittsburgh Steelers 2005-09
    • 2006 - Inactive for the win over Seattle
    • 2009 - Playing in this year's game
  • Napoleon Harris Oakland Raiders 2002-04
    • 2003-Started at MLB in Raider's 48-21 Loss to Tampa Bay
  • Jim Lash Minnesota Vikings 1973-76
    • 1974-Caught one pass for 9 yards in 24-7 loss to Miami
    • 1975-Started at WR in 16-6 loss to Pittsburgh.
  • Luther Morris Denver Broncos 1997
    • Not active or on game roster for game
  • Steve Tasker - Buffalo Bills 1986-97
    • 1991-Special Teams in 20-19 Loss to NY Giants
    • 1992-Special Teams in 37-24 Loss to Washington .
    • 1993-Caught 2 Passes for 30 yards in 52-17 loss to Dallas .
    • 1994-special Teams in 30-13 loss to Dallas
  • Matt Ulrich - Indianapolis Colts 2006-07
    • 2007 - on depth chart for game with Chicago, Win for Colts
  • Fred Williamson - Kansas City Chiefs 1965-67
    • 1967-Started at CB in 35-10 loss to Green Bay in Super Bowl I.
As for the Curse:
The Steelers won last year with a former Wildcat on their roster, although Trai Essex was actually inactive for the game, which starts the argument about whether you have to be active for the "curse" to officially be broken. Meanwhile, Matt Ulrich was active in 2007 for Indianapolis' win over Chicago.

Below is a listing of the Northwestern Players who played in the old League Championships, prior to the start of the Super Bowl in 1967 [following the 1966 season].

The Oldest League, the NFL, only lists Conference Championship results from 1933 on, the AFL started in 1960 and merged into the NFL for the 1971 Super Bowl. I'm sure some NU Alums played on NFL Championship teams prior to 1933 - that's our next research project.

By the way, Northwestern Alums have a 16-17 record in the NFL Championship games, 2-3 in the AFL. We added up each player's won-loss record, even if two Cats played in the same game.

The Original National Football League - 1933-1965

Alf Bauman - [0-1] Philadelphia Eagles 1947, Chicago Bears 1948-50
  • Philly lost to the Chicago Cardinals in 1947.
(Bauman changed teams, to the Chicago Bears and the Eagles beat LA in the 1948 game.)

Larry Benz - [1-1] Cleveland Browns 1963-65)
  • 1964 - Browns 27 Colts 0
  • 1965 - Green Bay 23 Browns 12
Hank Bruder - [2-0] Greenbay 1931-39 - Played on two NFL Champs.
  • 1936 Packers 21 - Redskins 6
  • 1939 Packers 27 - Giants 0
Andy Cvercko [1-0] Green Bay 1960, Dallas Cowboys 61-62, Cleveland Browns 1963, Washington Redskins 1963
  • 1960 Eagles 17 Packers 13
Bill DeCorrevont [1-1] Washington Redskins 1945,  Chicago Cardinals 1947-48
  • 1945 Browns 15 Redskins 14
  • 1947 Cardinals 28 Eagles 21
(Traded to the Bears during the 1948 season and missed the Cards win)

Paul Engebretson [2-1] Green Bay Packers 1934-41
  • 1936 Packers 21 Boston 6
  • 1938 Giants 23 Packers 17
  • 1939 Packers 27 Giants 0
Ezra Gene Gossage [1-0] Philadelphia Eagles 1960-??
  • 1960 Eagles 17 Packers 13
Otto Graham [3-3] Cleveland Browns 1946-55 - played in 6 straight NFL Championships
  • 1950 Browns 30 Rams 28
  • 1951 Rams 24 Browns 17
  • 1952 Lions 17 Browns 7
  • 1953 Lions 17 Browns 16
  • 1954 Browns 56 Lions 10
  • 1955 Browns 38 Rams 14
Luke Johnsos [1-2] Chicago Bears 1929-37
  • 1933 Bears 23 Giants 21
  • 1934 New York 30 Bears 13
  • 1937 New York 28 Bears 21
Edgar Manske [0-1 ] Phila Eagles 1935-36, Chicago Bears 1937-38
  • 1937 Redskins 28 Bears 21
Ernest "Pug" Rentner [0-1] Boston Redskins 1934-36, Chicago Bears 1936-37 Traded during the 1936 season, missed the loss to Green Bay.
  • 1937 Redskins 28 Bears 21
Vic Schwall [1-1] Chicago Cardinals 1947-50
  • 1947 Cardinals 28 Eagles 21
  • 1948 Eagles 7 Cardinals 0
Robert Swisher [2-1] Chicago Bears 1938-42
  • 1940 Bears 73 Redskins 0
  • 1941 Bears 37 Giants 9
  • 1942 Redskins 14 Bears 6
Ray Wietecha Blocks for Gifford











Ray Wietecha [1-4]
[#55 above] New York Giants 1953-62
  • 1956 Giants 47 Bears 7
  • 1958 Colts 23 Giants 17
  • 1959 Colts 31 Giants 16
  • 1961 Packers 37 Giants 0
  • 1962 Packers 16 Giants 7
American Football League - 1960 - 1965
Ron Burton - [0-1] Boston Patriots 1960-65
  • 1963 Chargers 51 Patriots 10
Mark Johnston [2-1] Houston Oilers 1960-63, Oakland Raiders 1964/NY Jets 64
  • 1960 Oilers 24 Chargers 16
  • 1961 Oilers 10 Chargers 3
  • 1962 Texans 20 Oilers 17
Larry Onesti [0-1] Houston Oilers 1962-65
  • 1962 Texas 20 Oilers 17
Information is from the Super Bowl Boxscores and Conference Championship Results pages of the NFL's Super Bowl XL Web Site, and Page 164 of the 2005 Northwestern Football Media Guide.

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