There was a half-dozen Gophers football players at Lambeau Field for the Packers-Buccaneers NFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon.
It was Tampa Bay receiver Tyler Johnson and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. on one side, and Green Bay linebacker Kamal Martin on the other. In the stands, three of their U teammates cheered them on: Giants linebacker Carter Coughlin, new Augsburg linebacker coach Thomas Barber and sixth-year senior Gophers receiver Clay Geary.
“Yes, sir!” Coughlin shouted on a Instagram video from great seats a few rows up on the 25-yard line. Johnson spotted his fans and gave a quick acknowledgment before the opening kickoff.
Winfield Jr. missed his first game of the season due to an ankle injury. But Johnson had a 16-yard reception and, more importantly, had his jersey tugged during a crossing route that drew a late pass interference call on Green Bay to help seal the win.
For the Packers, Martin had two tackles, including one for lost yards in the loss.
In Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game, former U linebacker Damien Wilson and the Chiefs beat the Bills to earn a spot in Super Bowl LV in Tampa on Feb. 7, where they hope to defend their NFL championship.
It’s the first time Minnesota has had three or more former players in the Super Bowl since 1970 when the Chiefs’ Bobby Bell, Bob Stein and Aaron Brown beat the Vikings’ Carl Eller, Kent Kramer and Milt Sunde 23-7 in Super Bowl IV.
The Gophers will have at least one Super Bowl champion in consecutive years for the first time in 14 years, dating back to Tyrone Carter with the Steelers in 2006, followed by Ben Utecht and Darrell Reid with the Tony Dungy-coached Colts in 2007.