Super Bowl Sunday is officially upon us, and when the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles kick off Sunday afternoon in Glendale, Ariz., there will be plenty of Mississippi connections to look out for.
Outside of the field’s paint and logos being produced right here in Leland, there will be 12 players featured in football’s biggest game who were either born in Mississippi or played at one of the state’s four-year universities.
Keep reading to find out who all will be representing the Magnolia State in Super Bowl LVII.
Beginning with the Eagles, who are 1.5-point favorites, defensive lineman Fletcher Cox is one of four Mississippi State alumni suiting up in this year’s Super Bowl.
Cox, a native of Yazoo City, is a six-time Pro Bowler looking for his second world championship after winning with Philadelphia in 2018. During the regular season, Cox had 43 total tackles, seven sacks, and one forced fumble for an Eagles defense that ranked as the league’s second-best in 2022.
The lone representative dressing out from Ole Miss, wide receiver A.J. Brown led a talented Eagles receiving corps with 88 receptions, 1,496 yards, and 11 touchdowns during the regular season. Although Brown has struggled in the team’s two postseason games (7 receptions for 50 yards), the former Rebel will look to expose a Kansas City secondary that relies on four rookies to do its heavy lifting.
The first of four Mississippi natives in this year’s Super Bowl who opted to play their college ball out of state, Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell has been the lead back throughout out the Eagles’ stellar playoff run. In two games, the Yazoo City native and Memphis product has rushed for 160 yards and one touchdown with an average of 6.2 yards per carry.
And as if Mississippi wasn’t already considered one big fraternity, Gainwell’s grandfather is actually the brother of Fletcher Cox’s father.
Darius Slay, the Mississippi State alumnus known as “Big Play Slay,” was a major addition for the Eagles when the team acquired the star cornerback from the Detroit Lions in 2020. In his three seasons in Philadelphia, Slay has racked up two Pro Bowl selections while quickly solidifying himself as a team captain. In 2022, Slay had 55 total tackles, three interceptions, and 14 passes defended.
One of two Southern Miss players competing in Super Bowl LVII, wide receiver Quez Watkins finished his second regular season in the league with 33 receptions, 354 yards, and three touchdowns. While his playoff production has been virtually nonexistent with just one target and zero receptions, Watkins has proven that he has the ability to be a gamechanger when needed.
Even though Eagles starting quarterback Jalen Hurts has slowly moved himself away from the team’s injury report and seems to be fully healthy going into Sunday’s game, backup quarterback Gardner Minshew will be ready for action if needed. The Brandon native and Mike Leach prodigy filled in for Hurts against both Dallas on Dec. 24 and New Orleans on Jan. 1, throwing for 629 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.
If all goes as planned for the Eagles, Horn Lake native Nakobe Dean will go from winning a national championship at Georgia to being crowned a Super Bowl champion in a span of just 13 months. While Dean hasn’t yet carved out a starting role with the Eagles, the rookie has been a consistent force on special teams while seeing limited action at the linebacker position, with 13 tackles on the year.
As Cameron Tom continues to work towards cracking the depth chart, the offensive lineman out of Southern Miss has been an important piece of Philadelphia’s practice squad as the team continues to develop the former All-Conference USA player.
Moving along to the Kansas City Chiefs, defensive lineman Chris Jones is the undoubted leader of a defense seeking revenge after being ousted by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the team’s 2021 Super Bowl appearance.
Often argued as the best defensive tackle in the league – especially with the recent retirement of Aaron Donald – Jones is coming off a stellar regular season in which the Mississippi State product totaled 44 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Willie Gay, Jr.
Rounding out the Mississippi State guys, linebacker Willie Gay, Jr. has been cleared to play in the Super Bowl after suffering a shoulder injury in the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago. Gay, who played on the same high school team as A.J. Brown, had a career-high 88 total tackles and 2.5 sacks during the regular season.
Horn Lake native and Chiefs linebacker Darius Harris will be looking for his second Super Bowl ring since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019. On the season, the Middle Tennessee State product has 23 total tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Rookie wide receiver and running back Jerrion Ealy, who the Chiefs have made clear they’re interested in developing, resigned with the team as a practice squad player immediately following the AFC Championship Game. The Ole Miss alum signed as an undrafted free agent in May 2022 before being released on Dec. 27.