Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis will feature an intriguing, Southern-fried matchup between two former South Carolina teammates.
Most of the storylines surrounding the New England Patriots - Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl will center on Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s pursuit of a sixth title and the rematch between two teams that met in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville 13 years ago.
But football fans in the Carolinas can focus on a cool, game-within-the-game involving Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
The two were teammates at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier before leaving school early for the NFL in 2012. Gilmore was selected No. 10 overall by Buffalo, while Jeffery went to Chicago in the second round.
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Both changed teams before this season and neither had played in a playoff game before last weekend.
Now, they’re likely to be matched up opposite each other a lot in the Super Bowl in two weeks.
Carolina Panthers and former Gamecocks cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who just missed Jeffery and Gilmore in Columbia, is looking forward to the matchup.
“I think it will be fun. Very exciting for both of them,” Munnerlyn said in a text message Sunday. “They used to battle a lot in college, so they know each other very well.”
Both had huge plays in Sunday’s conference championship games.
Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract with New England last offseason, broke up Blake Bortles’ fourth-down pass to preserve the Patriots’ 24-20 win over Jacksonville.
Gilmore jumped to swat away Bortles’ throw to Dede Westbrook on fourth-and-15 with 1:53 remaining to thwart the Jaguars’ comeback hopes. Gilmore, who grew up in Rock Hill and played at South Pointe, told reporters he recognized Westbrook’s route because he’s seen it earlier in the game.
Jeffery, who signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia during the offseason, was rewarded last month with a four-year extension worth $52 million.
Jeffery made the investment look good against the Vikings by catching two touchdown passes from Nick Foles – including a 53-yarder – in the Eagles’ 38-7 victory. Jeffery finished with five receptions for 85 yards.
Look for more in the Observer on the two Super Bowl-bound, ex-Gamecocks in the next two weeks.
Super Bowl LII
New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles
6:30 p.m. Feb. 4
U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis