ST. JOSEPH — Former Missouri Western kicker, Greg Zuerlein and former Northwest Missouri State defensive end, Matt Longacre are headed to football’s biggest game. The two are members of the Los Angeles Rams, but before Zuerlein and Longacre were teammates in the NFL, the two were rivals in 2011.
"I'll never forget the day here against Northwest when he hit a 58-yarder into the wind,” Zuerlein’s former Western teammate Scott Groner said. “Then he hit a 58-yarder with the wind."
In week 10 of the regular season, Zuerlein drilled 3 field goals to lead the Griffons past no. 3 Northwest.
"It's this sort of thing where as soon as we cross mid-field, we knew we were in field goal range and we knew we'd have a chance to get points,” Groner said. “So that's huge."
In true rival fashion, Longacre returned the favor in the opening round of the playoffs. Nabbing 5 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery that was the deciding factor in the game.
Former Bearcat and two-time Super Bowl Champion Dave Tollefson says because of that rivalry, the two join an exclusive club in the NFL.
"Division two is like a little frat within the NFL,” Tollefson said. “Everyone knows who played division two football that's playing in the NFL it's kind of a neat deal. After every game, you kind of find the D-2 guys, you pat them on the back and say congratulations."
The Super Bowl will feature four players from the division two level. Two of them being from the MIAA.
"I just think it's great for the MIAA, I think it's great for division two football,” Northwest head coach Rich Wright said. “It's indicative of the level of ball that we play."
Tollefson and Gijon Robinson (Western) were the last two players to play in a Super Bowl from Northwest and Western. Tollefson won Super Bowl's XLII and XLVI with the New York Giants. After getting to know Longacre over the years, Tollefson reached out to offer some advice.
"Everything surrounding the game, you soak it in," Tollefson said.
When it comes to the game itself, Tollefson offers more advice to not only a former Bearcat but a Griffon as well.
"Do whatever you can to help the team win that game cause it's not a lot of sports that have finals like we have in the National Football League where it's just one shot,” Tollefson said. “So do whatever you can."
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