Super Bowl XLIX features one of the more exciting matchups in the football championship’s history, with the defending champions, the Seattle Seahawks facing off against the New England Patriots. The Patriots are appearing in their sixth Super Bowl in 14 years, but the two teams’ records aren’t the only things about the much-anticipated match-up that serve as inspiration. Both teams have players whose work off the field mirrors their achievements on it. Get to know six of these Super Bowl Championship hopefuls before the big game:
Earlier this month, the defensive tackle for the Patriots was on his way home from New England’s AFC championship game when he saw an overturned Jeep on the side of the road. Wilfork immediately rushed to help, and got the woman, Mary Ellen Brooks, out of the car. “My job right then and there was to help the person in the car,” Wilfork told the press
. “I was just lucky to help. I don’t want anything from it.” Bill Belichick, Wilfork’s coach, praised his player to the media for his heroic actions, saying: “That’s the person he is.
Landon Cohen was parking cars a month ago. Now he is in the Super Bowl. The defensive lineman had played in the NFL before, but couldn’t find a job this season. So he worked on his valet parking business while staying in shape and hoping to play in the league again. Earlier this month, he got the call from the Seattle Seahawks, and he made it back to football, just in time for the Seahawks’ playoff run. "It's been a nice little ride," he said
Devin McCourty is a starting safety for the Patriots, and his twin brother, Jason, plays for the Tennessee Titans. The two were inspired by their aunt Winnie, who suffers from sickle cell disease
, to do something meaningful with their fame, so the twins created Tackle Sickle Cell
, a charity designed to raise awareness and funds to fight the disorder.
McCourty told Yahoo! Sports
he doesn't think sickle cell disease gets enough attention, even though
100,000 Americans are afflicted with it. He said the campaign “started as just myself and Jason wanting to be involved in helping out my aunt,” and that “it has turned into us realizing there's a greater impact on getting the importance of the disease out to a lot of people and seeing how much help and support we can get.” For their work on the issue, the NFL picked the McCourty brothers as two of their 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year
4) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to an improbable overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers in the
NFC Championship game. Not too shabby for a quarterback considered, at 5’ 11”, too short to succeed in the NFL. Wilson was only a third-round draft pick in 2012, picked way behind heralded names like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Yet it is Wilson who has led his team to two Super Bowls in his first three seasons.
Wilson is very focused on faith as well as football. He posts a different Bible verse each day on his Twitter feed
and spends each Tuesday visiting patients at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. During Super Bowl media day, he spoke about the legacy he wants to have
: “In terms of my legacy on the field, I want to be considered a winner,” he said. “In terms of my legacy off the field, I want to be a Christian man that helps lead and helps change lives and helps serve other people.”
5) Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s cornerback, one of the top defensive players in the game, grew up in Compton, California, in
Los Angeles County. Sherman cites hearing Magic Johnson
speak at his high school about how to set and reach goals as an inspiration for Sherman to do something great with his life. Sherman ended up being an honors graduate of Stanford University.
He also founded a charity, Blanket Coverage
, which gets low-income children school supplies and materials. "I feel obligated to make (the inner city) a better place," Sherman told the San Jose Mercury-News
. "We shouldn't ever leave a kid behind." He also speaks to children in schools today, to inspire them the way that Johnson inspired him.
6) Robert Kraft, New England Patriots
Robert Kraft, who has owned the Patriots for the last 20 years, formed a special bond with Sam Berns, a Foxborough, Massachusetts teenager with progeria, a disease that literally makes children old before their time. He was so charmed by Berns’ personality that he ended up pledging $500,000 in matching donations to the Progeria Research Foundation
, Berns’ family’s foundation. "I get to meet a lot of people in my life," Kraft told ESPN
. "But I've never met anyone quite like Sam. I love the kid."
In 2013, Kraft had Berns give a pep talk
to the Patriots before the game. After the Pats won, the team gave their Foxborough fan the game ball. While Berns passed away at the age of 17 last year, he still lived four years longer than he was expected to, and his life touched many.