Duke Ihenacho Goes For A Share Of Lombardi Trophy

Duke Ihenacho was a first-team All-WAC defensive back in 2008 and 2011 and a first-team all-conference linebacker in 2009.

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.

Super Bowls Spartans
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