Want to win in the NFL? Want to go on deep playoff runs? Better make sure you've got a Hawkeye. Former Iowa football players are all over the rosters of the teams set to play in the NFC Championship Game and the AFC Championship Game. In fact, no other college has more players on the rosters for those four teams (the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) than the University of Iowa.
Most players on NFL Rosters (active) in the AFC/NFC Championships:— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) January 18, 2021
7- Mississippi St
6- Texas A&M
5- Penn State
4- James Madison
3- Central Mich, Maryland, Miami, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, UCLA, UGA, USF
This is the second straight season that Iowa has topped this list at this stage of the season, too. Not too shabby.
The nine* remaining Iowa players are:
- KANSAS CITY: LB Anthony Hitchens, LB Ben Niemann
- BUFFALO: S Micah Hyde, OL Ike Boettger, DL A.J. Epenesa
- GREEN BAY: LB Christian Kirksey, DB Josh Jackson (TE Dominique Dafney)*
- TAMPA BAY: OT Tristan Wirfs, DL Anthony Nelson
* EDIT: A friend reminded me that the Packers also have Dominique Dafney, who began his college football career at Iowa as a walk-on receiver, but graduating and transferring to Indiana State to finish his career.
Those Iowa players aren't just filling out the rosters, either -- many of them are key starters and among the best players on their team. Hyde was second on Buffalo in tackles in their win over Baltimore, with seven stops. Hitchens has been a fixture in the middle of Kansas City's defense in recent years and had four tackles against Cleveland, including one tackle for loss. Kirksey, finally healthy after several injury-ravaged seasons, has been a mainstay in Green Bay's defense and had a pair of tackles in their win over the Rams. And Wirfs has been brilliant all season, starting from day one at right tackle and playing at a high level all year. He maintained that strong level of performance against a very good New Orleans pass rush yesterday.
Get some, Tristan. If Tompa Bay wins it all and gets Brady a seventh (!) Super Bowl ring, it will be in no small part due to Wirfs' superb play. But there's still a lot of football to be played before that.
One side effect of having the conference championship games so loaded with former Hawkeyes? Whoever ends up winning those games -- and going on to win the Super Bowl -- there will be multiple former Iowa players earning Super Bowl rings this season. Hitchens and Niemann won rings with Kansas City last year, so they're trying to add jewelry to their collection, while all of the other ex-Iowa players are seeking their first rings. This will be the third straight year with a former Iowa player on the Super Bowl-winning team and the seventh straight year the Super Bowl will feature at least one former Iowa player. (Super Bowl XLVIII between Denver and Seattle was the last to not include any former Hawkeyes.)
Good luck to all the former Hawkeyes suiting up in the conference championship games this weekend and Go Iowa Awesome.