Sunday morning, 53 players from the Baltimore Ravens and another 53 from the San Francisco 49ers, including a former South Carolina Gamecock, will wake up to something most have never experienced and won’t even be able to explain.
Brad Edwards has been there. The former South Carolina star played safety for the Washington Redskins in 1992 when the Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI.
“You get up that morning, and it is so surreal. It’s almost indescribable,” Edwards said. “When you realize the enormity of it, how much time you have spent in your life getting to that point, the reality that you are going to be in the most televised event on the planet.”
Chris Culliver, who left South Carolina after the 2010 season, will become the 18th Gamecock to play in a Super Bowl on Sunday when the 47th version of the game is played. Culliver already has become one of the biggest storylines of Super Bowl week after saying earlier this week that a gay player would not be accepted in an NFL locker room.
Avoiding trouble can be a tall task at the Super Bowl, said Robert Brooks, a wide receiver at South Carolina who played in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII with the Green Bay Packers, winning in 1997 and losing in 1998.
“It’s hard not to (make a mistake) because there are so many things going on,” Brooks said. “It’s very easy to get caught up in those things. The best way, I think, to approach it is to take a business mentality.”
That’s how the Redskins approached it in 1992, Edwards said.
“I will never forget the first meeting we had after the championship, and (coach) Joe Gibbs said, ‘Our goal is not to go to the Super Bowl. It’s to win it, period.’ He was so matter of fact when he said that. I was like, ‘OK, to not win is a huge failure.’ It was so business-like. We didn’t pay a lot of attention to a lot of the things going on around the game.”
At Wednesday’s practice before the game, Edwards and running back Gerald Riggs “had a massive collision right at the sideline,” Edwards said.
“I guess John Madden was standing right there and turned to our sports information director and said, ‘This game is over. You guys are going to kill the Bills.’ By Friday, Joe Gibbs made us tone it down at practice,” Edwards said. “It was so physical. I could not tell you anything that was going on around the game other than our preparation to go and win.”
That’s an impressive feat given all the distractions of the week, Brooks said.
“There are people from all over the world in town,” he said. “There are movie stars. And everyone wants to get a picture with a player. It’s not easy.”
Edwards may have had the best game of any South Carolina player in the Super Bowl. He intercepted two passes and returned them a combined 56 yards, broke up five more passes and had four tackles. He finished second in MVP voting behind quarterback Mark Rypien.
“It helped my career tremendously,” Edwards said.
Edwards and Brooks agreed that it will be a while before Culliver, or any of the players in Sunday’s game, will be able to fully appreciate having been a part of the event.
“It’s hard to digest for three or four months,” Edwards said. “It’s just so big.”