Here are the Arizona sports connections on Super Bowl LIV teams
When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers face off in Super Bowl LIV, a handful of players will have Arizona connections.
From the Arizona Cardinals to universities to high schools in the Valley, some recognizable names over the years pop up on the teams’ rosters.
The Chiefs have five players with Arizona connections.
Terrell Suggs: Suggs, who graduated from Hamilton High School in Chandler, blossomed into a national star at Arizona State in 2002 when his 24 sacks broke the NCAA record and he won numerous awards, including the Rotary Lombardi Award and Bill Willis Trophy.
He spent the majority of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens but returned to Arizona this season, playing 13 games with the Cardinals before getting cut and signed by the Chiefs.
Tyrann Mathieu: The Honey Badger became a fan-favorite in Arizona, getting 11 interceptions over five seasons. Mathieu’s best year was 2015, when he had five interceptions and 89 total tackles. Mathieu was picked up by Kansas City this offseason, where he has started every game.
Anthony Sherman: The fullback spent his first two seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, appearing in 28 games. He had just one rush attempt, but caught 13 passes for 111 yards. Sherman has played with Kansas City ever since.
Alex Okafor: Okafor landed on the injured reserve in December in his first season on the Chiefs. He was a fourth-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and started 25 of the 26 games he played in during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, accumulating 53 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and an interception in those two seasons. He didn’t start any games for the Cardinals in 2016.
Xavier Williams: The Cardinals signed Williams as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Williams appeared in 23 games for Arizona over three seasons, getting 28 total tackles and starting twice. He signed with the Chiefs prior to the 2018 season.
Mike Pennel: The tackle started his college career at Scottsdale Community College before taking the step up to play for Arizona State under head coach Todd Graham, but he eventually left the program after multiple suspensions. He transferred to Colorado State University-Pueblo and went undrafted in 2014. He’s bounced around in the NFL, signing contracts with Green Bay, the New York Jets, New England and then Kansas City.
Earl Mitchell: Mitchell played for Arizona from 2006-2009. He started as a running back before switching to the defensive side, which turned out to be the right move: He had 88 tackles and 18 tackles for loss over his final two seasons. He played for the Houston Texans from 2010-13, the Miami Dolphins from 2014-16, and played for the San Francisco Giants for two years before being cut.
Mitchell was signed by the Seahawks this offseason but didn’t make the team, so he retired. However, the Niners came knocking at the turn of the new year, and Mitchell signed with the team he had played for in 2017 and 2018. He made his 2019 debut against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, getting one tackle.
Andrew Lauderdale: Lauderdale is one of the success stories of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. The offensive lineman was given chances by three NFL teams after the AAF shut down: The Cardinals signed him in April 2019 but waived him two months later; the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed him but waived him a month later; then, 10 days after, Lauderdale signed with the 49ers. He was waived with an injury designation but reverted to injury reserve on Sept. 1. He remains on injured reserve.
Shawn Poindexter: Poindexter, who attended Centennial High School in Glendale, Ariz., blossomed into a University of Arizona star as a senior in 2018, tying the school’s single-season record with 11 receiving touchdowns and finishing the season with 42 receptions and 759 yards. He was signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent and was placed on the injured reserve after being waived in August.
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles: A practice squad player on the 49ers injured reserve, Flannigan-Fowles played all 50 games as a University of Arizona student from 2015-18 and started 36 of them. A safety, Flannigan-Fowles had 56 tackles and five tackles for loss as a senior. He was signed by San Francisco as an underafted free agent in May, waived in August, and signed to the practice squad in September.