Huskies in the Super Bowl

The field at NRG Stadium is prepared for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Houston. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Super Bowl LI is right around the corner and with it two former UConn Huskies who are on the 53-man active roster for the Atlanta Falcons. While cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has only played in one game in his first year with the Falcons, he played at least 10 games a season in his previous three years with the Tennessee Titans starting in 2013. He had his best season in 2014, when he started 11 games for the Titans and recorded 57 combined tackles, as well as an interception. Nick Williams has been with the Falcons since 2015 but the wide receiver has only played two games for them this season, recording two receptions for 59 yards total. He managed to record four receptions against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14 for 49 yards and one reception against New Orleans in the final game of the season for 10 yards. However, he played 14 games in the 2015 season with 159 receiving yards on 17 receptions, including two touchdowns.

Coming out of Edinboro, Pennsylvania, Wreh-Wilson redshirted his first season with the Huskies. In 2009, he played in all 13 games of the season while starting nine of them, recording 40 tackles on the season and one interception. Wreh-Wilson would become the starter for his second year of eligibility and start every game at cornerback for UConn. Recording four interceptions -- including two return touchdowns -- on the season, he added seven tackles in the 2010 Tostitos Fiesto Bowl against Oklahoma. After injuring his knee at the beginning of the 2011 season, he came back to have his best season at UConn in his senior year. He would go on to start 11 games for the Huskies in his final year while registering 47 tackles on the season. In addition to being named UConn’s Most Valuable Player, he was named to the All-Big East Second Team while ending his career with 181 tackles, eight interceptions and two return touchdowns.

Williams entered UConn out of East Windsor, New Jersey, and immediately started playing for UConn with seven games in 2009. He exploded on the scene in his sophomore year, showing his prowess when he was named kick returner halfway through the year and finishing first in the country with a kick return average of 35.29 yards per return, while being named to the All-Big East First Team. Two return touchdowns for 95 and 100 yards would put the icing on his 600 kickoff return yards that would rank him seventh in UConn football history. Although Williams slowed down in his junior year, he would play in all 12 games of the season for the Huskies. While not as prolific as the previous season, he still led UConn in kickoff return average with 24.9 yards per return and was named to the 2011 Big East All-Academic Team. Williams ended UConn career with 1,556 kickoff return yards and an average of 28.3 yards per return, which ranks him first in UConn’s record books.

Both players were recruited by former and recently rehired UConn coach Randy Edsall and played together during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Edsall recalled the two players from the latter years of his former stint with the Huskies, telling the Hartford Courant, “They basically came to college as unknown guys….They worked really hard. They did things the right way. Now here they are in the biggest game of their lives. You just feel good for them.”

Although neither player has played so far in the playoffs, if they do on Sunday, they will be joining four other former Huskies in the list of those who have played in the Super Bowl. This list includes Nick Giaquinto with the Redskins, Robert McClain with the Chargers, Donald Brown with the Colts, and Brian Kozlowski with the Falcons. Giving testament to the achievement of these two players in making it to this final game, Edsall said, “You got to the pinnacle. Now what you want to do is win the game, so you have that ring to keep on your finger as a memento of what you’ve accomplished.”


Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.burns@uconn.edu.