When Super Bowl 50 kicks off on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals will have to watch from home. Still, the organization is fairly well-represented at the game, given that three former member of the Cincinnati Bengals will be playing for a chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy.
The AFC representatives, the Denver Broncos, have three former Bengals among their ranks. Guard Evan Mathis, wide receiver Andre Caldwell and safety Shiloh Keo have all donned orange and black stripes at some point during their careers, though Keo never saw regular season playing time.
Evan Mathis, actually drafted by the Carolina Panthers (and the only player in the Super Bowl to play for both teams), made his way to Cincinnati in 2008, where he remained until 2010. Mathis didn't seem to enjoy his time in Cincinnati, and he eventually left for Philadelphia, where he made his name as one of the NFL's premiere offensive guards.
Andre Caldwell was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2008 draft. He never seemed to pan out as a receiver, catching just six touchdown passes in the Queen City. Caldwell was an above-average kick returner, but he was beaten out by Brandon Tate, the marquee whipping boy of the Bengals fanbase. Caldwell eventually made his way to Denver, latching on as a backup receiver and occasional return man. In the Broncos' game against the Bengals this season, Caldwell was targeted once but had zero catches.
Shiloh Keo only spent a few months with the Bengals during the 2015 preseason, battling Derron Smith for the team's final safety spot. After it was clear that Cincinnati preferred the rookie's upside, Keo spent the majority of the 2015 season as a free agent. In December, Keo Tweeted at Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who he played for in Houston.
@kaleo10 Keo--Josh was with us in camp and first 4 games-u know how much I think of u--hope that little Keo is doing well— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) December 2, 2015
@sonofbum I hear ya, still the same system tho. Little man is doing great. Keep me in mind tho if things don't pan out— Shiloh Keo (@kaleo10) December 2, 2015
Eight days later on December 9, the Broncos signed Keo. His Tweet actually worked and put him on the Broncos' radar. And, he turned out to be one of the heroes of the Broncos' AFC Championship win when he helped cover Rob Gronkowski on Tom Brady's 2-point conversion attempt, which failed, and then, he recovered the Patriots' last-second attempt at an onside kick, ending the game and giving the Broncos the AFC Championship and ticket to the Super Bowl. Not bad for a guy who joined the team in December after Tweeting at a coach and spent most of the season on his couch.
Along with their employment of past Bengals, the Broncos also boast several players who either grew up or played college football in Ohio. Tight end Jeff Heuerman and corner Bradley Roby both played for Ohio State, linebacker Danny Trevathan played for Kentucky and defensive end Derek Wolfe played at the University of Cincinnati, where he was teammates with former Bengals linebacker J.K. Schaffer. Finally, wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert coached at Ohio University in 1995.
Many Broncos players grew up in Ohio, as well. Wide receiver Cody Latimer is from Dayton, safety David Bruton Jr. is from Miamisburg, defensive end Kenny Anunike is from Galena, defensive end Vance Walker was born in Cincinnati and defensive line coach Bill Kollar is from Warren.
As for the other team playing in the Super Bowl, not a single member of the Carolina Panthers has spent time with the Bengals. But like the Broncos, the Panthers have many team members and staff who grew up in or played near Cincinnati at some point during their career.
Most notably, linebacker Luke Kuechly was born and raised in the Queen City and went to St. Xavier High School. Beloved by Ohio sports fans, Kuechly is the reason for many Bengals fans creating a "cat brotherhood" and rooting for the Panthers in the playoffs. Additionally, guard Andrew Norwell also grew up in Cincinnati and even attended Ohio State. Wide receiver Corey "Philly" Brown also attended Ohio State, along with safety Kurt Coleman (from Clayton, OH) and fellow receiver Ted Ginn (from Cleveland, OH).
Finally, Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula, son of legendary coach Don Shula, is brothers with former Bengals coach, Dave Shula. Dave Shula never panned out as head coach in Cincinnati, so it will be interesting to see whether his younger brother Mike is able to make the most of a future head coaching opportunity almost destined to come his way. After all, he's done a great job with Cam Newton and could be a Super Bowl champion days from now.
Bengals fans will have plenty of rooting interest in Super Bowl 50, as each team's roster is comprised of familiar faces. If the commercials, halftime show and the game itself aren't enough to draw your attention, hopefully the links to Ohio are.