Four former Utah collegiate football players will have a chance to win an NFL championship Sunday when Super Bowl XLVIII — that's 48 for the Roman-numerically challenged — kicks off in New York.
Zane Beadles, a former Hillcrest High School star who went on to have an All-American career as an offensive lineman at the University of Utah, starts at offensive guard for Denver.
He will be one of the main men responsible for protecting Denver superstar quarterback Peyton Manning and opening up running lanes for Knowshon Moreno and the Broncos' other backs against a fierce Seattle squad that boasts the NFL's best defense.
In his four NFL seasons, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Beadles has started in 62 of 64 regular-season games, gone to the Pro Bowl, and established himself as one of the league's elite O-lineman.
One of the guys who will be trying to make life miserable for Manning and Beadles will be Bobby Wagner, a stellar middle linebacker for the Seahawks' league-leading defense.
Wagner, in just his second NFL season, leads the team in tackles and is every bit as vital to Seattle's defensive success as cornerback Richard Sherman — minus the ridiculous postgame rant.
Wagner played his college football at Utah State, where one of his USU teammates was running back Robert Turbin, who now provides a solid backup to Marshawn Lynch, Seattle's star ball carrier. When he's in "Beast" mode, Lynch is one of the hardest-running backs you'll ever see — and one of the toughest to bring down.
Turbin could probably start for several other NFL teams, but Lynch is "the man" in Seattle's offensive backfield these days along with quarterback Russell Wilson.
And one of the guys who'll be trying to protect Wilson and help Lynch eat up yards on the ground — and thus keep Manning and the Broncos' high-powered offense off the field — is a player a lot of fans in the Beehive State might not be quite as familiar with, but one whose contributions could also be a key factor in Sunday evening's eventual Super Bowl outcome: former Weber State player Paul McQuistan.
McQuistan, like Beadles, is an offensive lineman, those "big uglies" who toil anonymously in the trenches and whose names are usually only mentioned on a TV broadcast when they've been found guilty of commiting a holding penalty.
McQuistan started 14 of the Seahawks' 16 games this season, and Sunday he'll become just the seventh former Wildcat player to participate in a Super Bowl — joining Lee White (1969, Jets), Daryl Pollard (1989-90, 49ers), Alfred Pupunu (1995, Chargers), Jamie Martin (2002, Rams) and Marcus Mailei (2010, Saints).
McQuistan's story is one of patience, persistence and perseverance. After being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft — his twin brother, Pat, was taken that same year by the Dallas Cowboys and has since played for six NFL teams — Paul spent three-plus seasons in Oakland before being released.
Paul McQuistan was subsequently signed in 2009 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who released him the following year. Then he spent about a month with the Cleveland Browns, who waived him in 2010.
It looked like his NFL career might be over before McQuistan wound up signing with Seattle in 2011. And Sunday, three years after they gave him another chance, he'll have a glorious shot at getting a coveted Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks.
Either way, somebody who spent his college days in Utah is gonna be joyously celebrating an NFL championship with his teammates Sunday evening.
And somebody's gonna be saying, "Hey, wait 'til next year."
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