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Sunday, November 28, 2021
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A history of UB football players in the Super Bowl

UB football alum Demone Harris and the Chiefs take on the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV

Former UB star defensive end Demone Harris is looking to raise the Lombardi Trophy for the second straight season Sunday.
Former UB star defensive end Demone Harris is looking to raise the Lombardi Trophy for the second straight season Sunday.

On Sunday, Demone Harris could become the first UB grad ever to win multiple Super Bowls when his Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, FL.

Harris was captured making confetti snow angels after last year’s Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers, his crowning professional achievement after a year marked by a missing wedding ring, roster cuts and playing time when it mattered most.

Harris is one of seven former UB stars to play in the Big Game. Here’s a look at the select few who reached this milestone:

Gerry Philbin

Super Bowl III – New York Jets 16 – Baltimore Colts 7

Philbin was a four-year starter at defensive end for the Bulls. During his tenure with UB, Philbin was a second-team All-American, Little All-American and a selection to the All-American aAcademic team. He was drafted 33rd overall by the Detroit Lions in the 1964 NFL Draft and in the third round by the New York Jets in the 1964 AFL Draft. 

Philbin would end up joining the Jets where he became a two-time AFL All-Star and a two-time All-AFL selection. He recorded 14.5 sacks during the 1968 season, leading a robust Jets defense to play the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Philbin had two tackles against the Colts, becoming the first Bull to win a Super Bowl ring.

Gemara Williams

Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants 17 – New England Patriots 14

Following his career at UB, the former defensive back signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots after the 2006 NFL Draft. Gemara found himself on the injured reserve at the start of the 2006 season and was released by the Patriots early into the 2007 season, but was re-signed to the team’s practice squad just days before the AFC Championship game. Although Williams did not play in Super Bowl XLII, he was still on the team when the undefeated Patriots took on the Giants, becoming the second Bull to land on a Super Bowl roster.

Jamey Richard and Drew Willy

Super Bowl XLIV – New Orleans Saints 31 – Indianapolis Colts 17

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Richard and Willy found their way to Super Bowl XLIV with the Colts in 2009. Richard, a former second-team All-MAC center for the Bulls, was drafted by the Colts in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He started in seven games in 2008, following an injury to all-world center Jeff Saturday. His interior line play in 2008 led him to be named to the NFL All-Rookie team. In 2009, Richard was an integral part of the club’s special teams unit during the Colts’ run to the Super Bowl. 

Willy, who ranks second all-time in passing yards and passing touchdowns in UB history, signed to the Colts’ practice squad late in the 2008 season. Willy didn’t see any action in the Super Bowl, but he was still signed with the Colts through the end of the season.

James Starks

Super Bowl XLV – Green Bay Packers 31 – Pittsburgh Steelers 25

In 2011, Starks became the second Bull to win the Super Bowl and the first of three Bulls from the Western New York area to win the Big Game. 

Starks came to UB from Niagara Falls High School where he ran for 2,506 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns. He went on to play for UB from 2008 to 2010, where he recorded 34 rushing touchdowns and set a school rushing record with 3,140 yards, which has since been surpassed by Branden Oliver and Jaret Patterson. The former first-team All-MAC running back was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and served as a backup to Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson. 

Starks finished the 2010 regular season with a modest 101 yards on 29 carries. But that was just the beginning. Starks had one of the more memorable playoff runs in recent memory. During the Pack’s wildcard game against the Eagles, he ran for 123 yards on 23 attempts. 

He followed that performance with 66 rushing yards in the Divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons and his first career touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game. Starks earned the starting job in Super Bowl XLV, running for 52 yards on 11 carries to help the Packers beat the Steelers.

Steven Means

Super Bowl LII – Philadelphia Eagles 41 – New England Patriots 33

Like Starks, Means was born in the WNY area, where he attended Grover Cleveland High School. Means played for the Bulls from 2009-2012 and recorded 186 total tackles, 19.5 sacks and three forced fumbles while earning All-MAC honors. His 19.5 sacks ranks fifth all-time in program history. 

Means was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and bounced around the league for a couple of seasons with the Ravens and Texans. In 2015, Means was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. He played a mostly reserve role for the Eagles, but did participate in 14 games over two seasons. Means didn’t play at all during the postseason, but did record three tackles in six regular-season games that year.

Demone Harris

Super Bowl LIV – Kansas City Chiefs 31 – San Francisco 49ers 20

Harris, a Buffalo native and former walk-on at UB, worked his way into a starting defensive end role for the Bulls. He started all 12 games during his senior season and was named second-team All-MAC after recording 55 tackles and five sacks. 

Following his career at UB, Harris signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He also spent time with the Buccaneers and Ravens before signing with the Chiefs in November 2019. Harris’ first game for the Chiefs came against the Patriots, where he recorded his first career tackle. He played in two playoff games for the Chiefs against the Texans and Titans before reaching Super Bowl LIV. Harris and the Chiefs capped the season off by bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Kansas City for the first time since 1970.

Alexander Brown is the senior multimedia editor and can be reached at Alexander.Brown@ubspectrum.com 

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