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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Two former Cats ready for Super Bowl cameo

    Lance Briggs and Copeland Bryan are poised to join a group of Super Arizona alumni.

    When the players take the field for the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLI in Miami, it will mark the sixth game in seven years to feature former Wildcats.

    Briggs, a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Bears, will start for Chicago against the Indianapolis Colts. Bryan, a defensive end who spent the season on the Bears’ seven-man practice squad, will suit up but not play.

    Both players will join other recent Super Bowl attendees Chris McAlister (Baltimore, 2001), Tedy Bruschi (New England, 2002, 2004-2005), Brandon Manumaleuna (Rams, 2002) and Joe Tafoya (Seattle, 2006).

    Bryan is the first Wildcat coached by Mike Stoops to have his team reach the championship game. The other five players, including Briggs, played under former Arizona head coach Dick Tomey.

    “”I’m thrilled for Lance, but I’m more thrilled because they’re really good people and they’re responsible adults and all that,”” Tomey said in a phone interview Wednesday. “”That’s the magic about all the guys you mentioned – they’re really good people.””

    Attempts to reach Briggs were unsuccessful, and Bryan did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

    The newcomers will get the chance to redeem unglamorous college careers by reaching football’s pinnacle.

    Briggs’ Arizona teams went 20-26 in four seasons before Chicago drafted him in the third round in 2003.

    Bryan walked on to the Wildcats as a freshman in 2001. His 7.5 sacks in 2005 were the most by an Arizona player since Tafoya’s 10 in 1999, but his teams finished 16-40 under John Mackovic and Stoops.

    Bryan went undrafted this spring but signed with Tennessee as a free agent, only to be cut on Aug. 29. He landed with the Bears soon thereafter.

    Former coaches and teammates praised Bryan for being an excellent player and teammate who is getting his due.

    “”It’s one of the reasons you’re in the business, to see young men go out and achieve their goals and realize their dreams,”” said UA defensive ends coach Joe Robinson. “”I think he’s been able to do that in his first year with the Bears.””

    Mike Bell, a Denver Broncos running back who played for the Wildcats from 2001-2005, wasn’t even aware Bryan was with Chicago.

    Even so, he was happily surprised to see his old teammate end up on the game’s biggest stage.

    “”Being around him, he was always positive,”” Bell said in a phone interview Wednesday. “”He had all the obstacles, walking on to the team. To be so successful so soon, and to be in this position, is great.””

    Briggs and Bryan will each face uncertain positions after Sunday.

    As a practice-squad player, Bryan could be cut from Chicago at any time and can stay in his current role for only one season before having to go to another team.

    Briggs’s contract is up after three straight prolific seasons -ÿ419 total tackles, 10 fewer than teammate Brian Urlacher over that span. Still, it’s uncertain whether the Bears will re-sign him or let him become a free agent.

    In a press conference Monday in Miami, Briggs said he was trying not to dwell on anything but enjoying the atmosphere around him.

    “”It’s so hard to get to the Super Bowl. Who knows ‘next year’? It’s not next year. This is now,”” he said. “”It’s so special to be in this game and actually have a chance to win it while 30 other teams are sitting at home. That’s what touches us. That’s what touches me more.””

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