SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Fans won't have to look too far during Sunday's Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas, if they would like to see a connection to California Community College Athletic Association football. With no less than six participants – including a player, two coaches and three officials – and two more in the media contingent, football from the Golden State will be on full display in the Lone Star State.
Longtime New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman headlines the list and will be making his third appearance in the big game. He had nine catches for a game-high 109 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX, helping the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24. Edelman, who was a star quarterback at the College of San Mateo before transferring to Kent State, also played in Super Bowl XLVI, seeing time equally at receiver and as a defensive back.
He's amassed 425 catches for 4,540 yards and 24 touchdowns during his eight regular seasons, including 98 grabs for 1,106 yards and three scores this years. Edelman highlighted his touchdown receptions with a career-best 77-yarder in the regular-season finale against Miami on Jan. 1.
Edelman earned all-state and All-America honors at the College of San Mateo in 205, throwing for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns while also rushing for a school-record 1,253 yards and 17 scores. He went on to be a three-year starting quarterback at Kent State before being taken by the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Edelman has a California community college football connection on his side of the ball in New England with longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Scarnecchia, a native of Los Angeles, played football in 1966 as an offensive lineman at Taft College in Taft. He would later play and graduate from Case Western University, which is also where he got his coaching start.
Scarnecchia, who is in his 33rd year coaching in the NFL – including 31 with the Patriots after missing the last two years because of a brief retirement – has the longest coaching tenure in team history and has assisted in a variety of areas, including the offensive line, linebackers and with special teams. He was named SI.com's NFL Assistant Coach of the Year in 2007 after overseeing a line that had three Pro Bowl players (center Dan Koppen, tackle Matt Light and guard Logan Mankins).
Scarnecchia was also assistant head coach for the Patriots from 2000 until his retirement in 2013.
Richard Smith, a former player and coach at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, will be trying to stop some of the Scarnecchia's offensive attack from his defensive coordinator role with the Atlanta Falcons. Smith is in his second year with the club after helping them improve from 32nd in the NFL total defense to 16th last year.
The longtime NFL coach began his tenure with the league in 1988 with the former Houston Oilers and has also been on staffs in Denver, San Francisco, Detroit, Miami, Carolina and with the Houston Texans. Smith has spent all of that time on the defensive side of the ball as well as with special teams.
He got his coaching start at Rio Hondo where he worked with the offensive line in 1979-80. He had returned to the Roadrunners after graduating from Fresno State where he continued his playing career on the o-line after playing for Rio Hondo in 1975-76.
The other three participants with ties to community college football in California plan to go as unnoticed as possible in their role as officials. Carl Cheffers and Scott Prukop – who both live in Southern California – will be joined by Dan Farrell from Texas on Sunday, officiating on football's biggest stage after all of them got their starts as officials for California community college games.
Each of them are officiating in their first Super Bowl. Cheffers will serve as the referee, guaranteeing him plenty of time in front of the cameras calling out penalties and making other game pronouncements. He's in his 17th year in the league. Ferrell is in his 14th year and has three playoff games under his belt since 2011, while Prukop brings eight years as an NFL official and is in his fifth postseason game since 2011.
California also has some community college football connections in the media activities surrounding the Super Bowl with ESPN analysts Herman Edwards and Antonio Pierce. Edwards, a former player and Super Bowl XV participant with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a longtime analyst on ESPN providing insights on many of the network's NFL programs leading up to the game.
Edwards was a star defensive back at Monterey Peninsula College in 1973 where he intercepted 10 passes and earned all-state recognition for head coach Chris Pappas. Antonio Pierce, a former linebacker with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, won a Super Bowl with the latter in 2007. The former player for Mt. San Antonio College and the University of Arizona was a Pro Bowl player and a team captain for the Giants and serves as an analyst on NFL Live and other ESPN shows.
Sunday's Super Bowl LI in Houston will begin at 3:30 p.m. (PST).