Jan. 27, 2014
History shows lesser-known San Jose State University football players can go from being an undrafted free agent to a Super Bowl champion.
Denver Broncos starting strong safety Duke Ihenacho is the latest four-year Spartan with a chance to grasp the Lombardi Trophy emblematic of the National Football League's championship following Super Bowl XLVIII, Sunday, February 2, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Now in his second season with the Broncos, Ihenacho signed with the American Football Conference champion following the 2012 draft as a free agent. He impressed the team enough in his first season to earn a role on the practice squad and did see action in a pair of 2012 regular season games.
By the start of the 2013 regular season, the 6-foot-1, three-time All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selection from San Jose State was entrenched as the starting strong safety. He finished the regular season starting 14 times and was third on Broncos for total tackles with 73.
San Jose State fans can look for #33 when the Seattle Seahawks have the ball. Ihenacho also is tied for the Denver team lead with three forced fumbles.
Ihenacho is bidding to become the sixth Spartan free agent pro to be on a Super Bowl championship team. Previously, the late Dwayne O'Steen, a defensive back with the Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XV), linebacker Sam Kennedy with the San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XXIII), safety Greg Cox with the 49ers (Super Bowl XXIII) and the New York Giants (Super Bowl XXIV), offensive lineman David Diaz-Infante with the Denver Broncos (Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII) and running back James Hodgins (Super Bowl XXXIV) were free agents that eventually played on a Super Bowl winner.
If Seattle wins Super Bowl XLVIII, then one-time Spartan Heath Farwell, the Seahawks' special teams captain, can add to the San Jose State legacy of free agent signees becoming a Super Bowl champion. Farwell played his freshman season of 2000 for the Spartans before transferring to San Diego State. Now in his ninth pro season, Farwell signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent after the 2005 NFL Draft.
James Jones, originally a Green Bay Packers' 2007 third-round draft choice, is the most recent San Jose State player to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV in 2011. Jones is the only former Spartan to be drafted by a NFL team and later become a Super Bowl champion.
|XII (1/15/78)||Louie Wright, Denver Broncos|
|XIV (1/20/80)||Carl Ekern, Los Angeles Rams|
|XV (1/25/81)||Dwayne O’Steen, Oakland Raiders|
|Dick Vermeil, Philadelphia Eagles head coach|
|Chuck Clausen, Philadelphia Eagles asst. coach|
|XVI (1/24/82)||Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers head coach|
|XVII (1/30/83)||Kim Bokamper, Miami Dolphins|
|Gerald Small, Miami Dolphins|
|XIX (1/20/85)||Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers head coach|
|Kim Bokamper, Miami Dolphins|
|XXI (1/25/87)||Gerald Willhite, Denver Broncos|
|Louie Wright, Denver Broncos|
|XXII (1/31/88)||Gerald Willhite, Denver Broncos|
|K.C. Clark, Denver Broncos|
|XXIII (1/22/89)||Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers head coach|
|Sam Kennedy, San Francisco 49ers|
|XXIV (1/28/90)||Greg Cox, San Francisco 49ers|
|XXV (1/27/91)||Greg Cox, New York Giants|
|XXXII (1/25/98)||David Diaz-Infante, Denver Broncos|
|XXXIII (1/31/99)||David Diaz-Infante, Denver Broncos|
|Steve DeBerg, Atlanta Falcons|
|XXXIV (1/30/00)||Dick Vermeil, St. Louis Rams head coach|
|Al Saunders, St. Louis Rams assistant coach|
|James Hodgins, St. Louis Rams|
|XXXV (1/28/01)||Lyle West, New York Giants|
|XXXVI (1/27/02)||James Hodgins, St. Louis Rams|
|XXXIX (2/6/05)||Josh Parry, Philadelphia Eagles|
|XLI (2/4/07)||Gill Byrd, Chicago Bears assistant coach|
|Rashied Davis, Chicago Bears|
|XLV (2/6/11)||James Jones, Green Bay Packers|
|XLVIII (2/2/14)||Duke Ihenacho, Denver Broncos|
Heath Farwell, Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl winners in bold-faced type