UNIVERSITY PARK – When the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts clash in Super Bowl XLI on Sunday, Penn State once again will be well-represented on the field and on the sidelines.
Several former Penn State players and staff with ties to the Nittany Lion Football program will be involved in the National Football League’s championship game, headed by three former standout players with the Bears –- tight end John Gilmore, placekicker Robbie Gould and guard Tyler Reed, who is on Chicago’s practice squad.
For the 37th time in the Super Bowl’s 41-game history, at least one Penn State alumnus will be a member of one of the teams. Twenty-eight former Nittany Lions have earned a total of 44 Super Bowl rings, including All-Pro center Jeff Hartings with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2005 season.
In addition to the three former players, Penn State graduate Tim Bream is Chicago’s head trainer and former Penn State assistant strength and conditioning coach Kevin O’Dea is the Bears’ assistant special teams coach.
For Indianapolis, former Penn State assistant coach Jim Caldwell is the Colts’ assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. Carlos Woods, a 2005 Penn State strength and conditioning graduate assistant, is a scouting assistant for the Colts.
Gilmore is in his fifth season with Chicago and has played in 56 career regular-season games at tight end and on special teams. A product of West Lawn, Pennsylvania, Gilmore played in all 16 games in 2005, making his first career touchdown catch against Tampa Bay. He played in 15 games in 2003 and ’04. The former Wilson High School all-state selection was co-captain of the 2001 Nittany Lions and a four-year letterwinner. During his collegiate career, Gilmore made 58 receptions for 634 yards and three touchdowns, with a career-best 25 catches for 284 yards (11.4) in 2001. He was selected by New Orleans in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft and signed with the Bears in September 2002.
Gould has had a sensational sophomore season with the Bears, earning All-Pro honors and a berth in the Pro Bowl. A native of Lock Haven, Pa., Gould was signed and waived by the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens during the 2005 training camps. He was working a construction job in the Lock Haven area in October 2005 when he was contacted by the Bears, earning the starting placekicker job for the final 13 games. He was 21 of 27 on field goal attempts and 19 of 20 on PAT attempts, leading the team in scoring with 82 poiints in 2005.
The 2006 campaign has been magical for Gould and the Bears. The former Central Mountain High School product was second in the NFL in scoring with 143 points, making 32 of 36 field goal attempts and all 47 of his PAT attempts during the regular season. In Chicago’s two playoff games, he has delivered the game-winning 49-yard field goal to defeat Seattle in overtime, and on Sunday, hit all three of his field goal attempts for a 9-0 Chicago lead en route to a 39-14 victory over New Orleans in the NFC Championship game.
Gould was Penn State’s kicker from 2001 to 2004 and finished his career with 232 points, good for fifth place on the school’s career scoring list. He led the Nittany Lions in scoring in 2003 and ’04 and in 2003 earned the Frank Patrick Memorial Total Commitment Award.
Reed was selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. A product of Thomas Jefferson High School near Pittsburgh, he was a three-year starter at guard for the Nittany Lions. A starter in 30 of the last 35 games of his career, Reed was one of the primary factors in the improved play of the offensive line in 2005, as Penn State went 11-1 and captured the Big Ten and FedEx Orange Bowl titles. A native of Jefferson Borough, Pa., Reed helped Penn State lead the Big Ten in scoring offense (35.2 ppg) in conference games and rank second in the league in all games (34.4 pgg).
Bream is in his 10th season as the Bears’ head athletic trainer and 14th season with the franchise. A native of Gettysburg, Pa., Bream was a student assistant in athletic training as an undergraduate. He earned his degree from the College of Health and Human Development in 1983 and a master’s degree from West Virginia. Bream was a trainer at Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Richmond before joining the Bears as an assistant trainer. Bream also was a member of the medical staff for the U.S. Olympic Team in the 1992 Winter Games.
O’Dea is in his first season as Chicago’s assistant special teams coach. He was a Penn State graduate assistant during the 1991 season and was the Nittany Lions’ assistant strength and conditioning coach in 1992 and ’93 under John Thomas. A native of Williamsport, Pa., O’Dea began his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers in 1994 and has also coached with Tampa Bay, Detroit and Arizona, where he was the special teams coach for two years before joining the Bears’ staff.
For the AFC Champion Colts, former Penn State quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell is in his second season as assistant head coach and fifth season as quarterbacks coach. Caldwell has been instrumental in the development of record-setting quarterback Peyton Manning, who earned NFL Most Valuable Player honors in 2003 and ’04. Caldwell joined the Penn State staff in 1986 as wide receivers coach and helped the Nittany Lions post a 12-0 record and win the National Championship. From 1987 to 1992, he served as quarterbacks and passing game coach, helping develop Tony Sacca and Kerry Collins, the latter of whom led Penn State to a 22-2 record in 1993-94 and won the 1994 Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards. Caldwell was named head coach at Wake Forest in 1993, coaching there for eight seasons before joining Tony Dungy’s staff in Tampa Bay in 2001.
In addition to Caldwell and Woods, Indianapolis Colts’ President Bill Polian has ties to Penn State. He served as an assistant football coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in the early 1970s under George Paterno, brother of Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.
Twelve former Nittany Lions playing in the National Football League were on 2006 playoff teams, with at least one Penn Stater on seven of the 12 squads vying for the Super Bowl XLI title. In addition to the 12 active players on NFL playoff teams and Reed, former Penn State tight end Matt Kranchick is on the practice squad of the New England Patriots.
There were 29 former Lions on 2006 NFL rosters, placing Penn State 10th nationally among schools in producing current NFL players.
More than 300 Nittany Lions have signed NFL contracts since Joe Paterno became head coach in 1966. A total of 227 Penn State players have been NFL draft selections during the Paterno era, including 30 first round choices. Last spring, defensive end Tamba Hali was a first round choice by the Chiefs, as seven Penn Staters were drafted. In 2003, four Nittany Lions were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.