Mississippian Spotlight in Super Bowl LV | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mississippian Spotlight in Super Bowl LV

Photo courtesy Kelly Price/MSU Athletics

Photo courtesy Kelly Price/MSU Athletics

Super Bowl LV is going to happen on Sunday, Feb. 7, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing the Kansas City Chiefs. As with every Super Bowl, there are plenty of storylines leading up to the big game.

Tampa Bay is the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium in the Super Bowl era. The Buccaneers can celebrate a victory on their home field or watch as the Chiefs celebrate a second straight Super Bowl win.

A ton of focus will be on both quarterbacks. Tom Brady switched teams from the New England Patriots to the Buccaneers. Brady is playing in an outrageous 10th Super Bowl and is looking for his seventh win. Patrick Mahomes is quickly becoming the face of the NFL and one of the most exciting players to watch play the quarterback position.

While much of the focus will be on the quarterbacks. There are a few players from our state that will be on the field this Sunday.

One of the biggest names that will be discussed that isn’t a quarterback is Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. One of the best at his position in the league he has been a tear since being drafted out of Mississippi State University.

Jones was drafted by Kansas City in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the 37th overall pick. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and made 11 starts. Jones collected 27 total tackles, 16 solo tackles, four passes defended and two sacks.

In 2017, Jones made 29 total tackles, 19 solo tackles, seven passes defended, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception. He started seven games but played in all 16 games.

Jones enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2018 as he played in all 16 games and made 11 starts. He recorded 38 total tackles, 33 solo tackles, 15.5 sacks, five passes defended, two forced fumbles and returned one interception for a touchdown.

In Kansas City’s Super Bowl winning season last year, Jones played in 13 games and made 12 starts. He collected 34 total tackles, 21 solo tackles, nine sacks, four passes defended, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

Jones enjoyed another successful season this year. He played in 15 games and made 14 starts as he made 36 total tackles, 23 solo tackles, 7.5 sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and one safety.

Chiefs rookie linebacker Willie Gay is playing in his first Super Bowl after being drafted by Kansas City in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft with the 63rd overall pick out of MSU. He played in all 16 games with eight starts as he made 39 total tackles, 29 solo tackles, three passes defended, one sack and one forced fumble.

Former MSU offensive tackle Martinas Rankin came into the league after being drafted by the Houston Texans in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft with the 180th overall pick. He made five starts and played in six games last season.

This season, Rankin has played in just one game that he started. As with any football game, Rankin could be pressed into action at any moment if an injury occurs.

Kansas City linebacker Damien Wilson was born in Gloster, Miss. and played at Jones Junior College before going to the University of Minnesota. He is looking to win his second straight Super Bowl after joining the Chiefs last season.

Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward is from McComb, Miss., and played at Hinds Community College before playing at Middle Tennessee State University. He is entering his third season with the Chiefs after coming into the league in 2018 and is looking for a second straight Super Bowl ring.

Tampa Bay defensive lineman Rakeen Nunez-Roches is in his sixth season in the NFL. Interestingly, he was drafted out of the University of Southern Mississippi by the Chiefs in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the 217th overall pick.

Nunez-Roches played three seasons with Kansas City before joining Tampa Bay in the 2018 season. He played in 16 games with 11 starts as he recorded 20 total tackles and seven solo tackles.

One other connection to our state is Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians. He coached at MSU twice during his coaching career. From 1978 to 1980 he was the running backs and wide receiver coach for the Bulldogs. Arians returned to Starkville in 1993 to 1995 as offensive coordinator.

For more sports coverage, visit jfp.ms/sports.

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