The home teams held serve in the AFC and NFC Championship games on Sunday, which means that the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl in Miami, FL in two weeks. It's the first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years (!) for the Chiefs (and third overall), since beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. It's the seventh Super Bowl appearance overall for the 49ers and their since losing the Harbaugh Bowl to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVI.
But more importantly for our purposes, a 49ers-Chiefs match-up also means that there will be Hawkeye representation in the Super Bowl -- in fact, there will be several former Iowa players in Miami in a few weeks.
The spotlight will shine brightest on George Kittle, San Francisco's star tight end. In the regular season Kittle led the 49ers in receptions (85), receiving yards (1053), and receiving touchdowns (5) and earned All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. His production as a receiver has been much quieter in the playoffs -- just four catches for 35 yards in San Francisco's two playoff wins -- but that's mainly because the Niners have been running the ball down the throat of opponents so far. Tevin Coleman had 126 yards for San Francisco in their divisional round win over the Minnesota Vikings, while Raheem Mostert exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns in their romp over the Green Bay Packers yesterday. Kittle's excellent blocking has been a big part of San Francisco's success on the ground in both games.
Just take it in, people. George Kittle in all his glory. Taking a linebacker for a ride like this is a high school game. pic.twitter.com/TLe8u5deti— Robert Mays (@robertmays) January 20, 2020
And regardless of whether he's catching many passes or not, Kittle continues to live his best life and is having a blast off the field.
George Kittle really came out to his postgame presser in a t-shirt with a shirtless Jimmy G— ESPN (@espn) January 20, 2020
"I was saving it for a special occasion. ... He even signed it." pic.twitter.com/cz3RhP931S
Its doesnt matter!— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) January 20, 2020
Much respect to the @packers and a huge congrats to my guy @gkittle46 and the entire @49ers squad & organization on this win! Helluva season, men.
One more job left. #PeoplesTightEnd#PeoplesChamp #SBLIV https://t.co/Dga0l1D6G9
Kittle will be joined in Miami by two former Iowa teammates who are currently with the Niners. CJ Beathard is the third-string quarterback with San Francisco and has been leading the scout team offense all season. He'll likely draw the difficult task of playing the role of Patrick Mahomes against the 49er defense over the next two weeks. Ross Reynolds is also with the 49ers, albeit as a member of the practice squad.
There will be Hawkeyes on the other side of the field from Kittle & Co., too -- former Iowa linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Ben Niemann. Hitchens has become one of the leaders of the KC defense and led the Chiefs in tackles during the regular season with 88 stops, including six tackles for loss and two sacks. He also had a pass deflection and a forced fumble. Hitchens has seven tackles in the Chiefs' two playoff wins. Niemann is more of a situational player, but still saw action in all 16 regular season games and racked up 56 tackles, including one tackle for loss. He has five tackles in the playoffs so far.
With four players on active rosters at the Super Bowl, Iowa will be tied (with Penn State) for the most among colleges.
Most players on NFL Rosters (active) in Super Bowl 54:— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) January 20, 2020
4- Penn State
3- Kansas State
2- BYU, CMU, Duke, Florida, FSU, Michigan, MTSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Pitt, SCAR, Tennessee, Utah, Vanderbilt
I believe this will be the eighth straight Super Bowl with at least one Iowa player involved. And with San Francisco and Kansas City both having Hawkeye representatives, we're guaranteed to see a few Hawkeyes emerge as Super Bowl winners in a few weeks.
Congratulations to Kittle, Beathard, Reynolds, Hitchens, and Niemann for making it to the biggest game in the sport.