Baltimore’s soil is fertile for football players and the roots are producing fruit (talent) at a rapid pace – whether it’s home grown or from the area colleges. Howard University is presented well in the Super Bowl through the likes of Indianapolis Colts’ free safety Antoine Bethea and defensive end Rudolph Hardie. Now, Morgan State and Towson University are starting to produce more NFL players again like Minnesota Vikings’ star tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (Morgan State). Colts’ running back Chad Simpson (Morgan State) and New Orleans Saints’ left tackle Jermon Bushrod (Towson) are playing Sunday night in Sun Life Stadium on the grandest stage of all sports. But Bushrod may become one of the bright spots of the NFL if he can continue to help keep Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees untouched.
“He comes from a place of certain humility, but great confidence,” said offensive line coach John Donatelli of Towson University, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of Tribune Newspapers, where he coached for the past 12 seasons and had Bushrod under his tutorage from 2003 to 2007.
Simpson is a speedy back from Miami, Florida and Sunday night will be a homecoming game for him. Simpson is third on the Colts’ running back depth chart behind rookie Donald Brown and starter Joseph Addai. The 5-9, 216 pounder is in his second season and scored twice this season averaging 6.8 yards on 12 carries total for 102 on the ground.
The headline news of media week in Miami and around the country has been the ankle injury of Colts’ Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney. Freeney injured his ankle against the New York Jets where he torn a ligament. Freeney rested, skip practice throughout the week and had ‘Star Wars’ technology on the ankle by having electric treatment on it. All of this to play in the biggest game of the sports season to face yours truly, Bushrod.
“I wanted him to know I was thinking about him and let him use me as a sounding board for his preparation,” said Donatelli. After Saints’ Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown went down for the year in August because of sports hernia surgery and in September for a hip procedure, Bushrod entered into the lineup to protect Brees’ blindside. Before each contest, Bushrod and Donatelli would talk in detail about the weekly matchup. “My preparation is going to be the same whether the matchup is hyped up or not,” said Bushrod with confidence. “I try to get as much film study in on each player I face. Every week to me is a big matchup.” Matchups against some of the NFL’s best pass rushers in John Abraham of the Atlanta Falcons, DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys, Julius Peppers of the Carolina Panthers, rookie Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo of the Washington Redskins, and Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. Freeney is one of the elite pass rushers in the league as well, but to Bushrod’s credit, he fared well against all comers and did not allow a sack all season giving Brees the time he needed to lead his team. “He got put in a situation you don’t want to be in,” said Brown. “All of a sudden, ‘Hey, Bushrod, you’re starting (after he played in only three regular season games in two years).’ He’s taken that on and done a great job. Definitely, he had to grow. Protecting Drew Bress’ blindside, that’s our team right there. He knew the pressure that came with it and handled it well.”
Simpson may not make headlines on Monday morning and Freeney will make it on front page news regardless if he played or not. If Freeney was healthy, it wouldn’t faze Bushrod because this Fredericksburg, Virginia 6-5, 315 lbs native has already been tested, tried and true.
Simpson or Bushrod will walk away with a Super Bowl ring after Sunday’s game. Just the fact they made it to the NFL, alone, is a great accomplishment, especially coming from universities that don’t have a lot of clout and doesn’t produce a lot of NFL pedigree. It’s something about Baltimore’s chicken box and half and half that get those guys prepared.