No matter what happens on Sunday, Georgia Tech will have representatives at the Super Bowl. All four teams playing for a spot in Super Bowl 50 – Denver and New England in the AFC and Arizona and Carolina in the NFC – have former Yellow Jackets, three on the active roster.
The more noteworthy game, from a Tech perspective, is the AFC matchup, where Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Patriots guard Shaquille Mason will be key figures in the matchup. Thomas is the Broncos’ biggest offensive threat and recorded his second consecutive 100-catch season with 105 receptions, six for touchdowns. He is part of perhaps the most compelling subplot of the NFL postseason – his mother Katina Stuckey Smith watched him play in person for the first time in her life last Sunday after having been imprisoned for 15 years for cocaine trafficking out of their home in Montrose in central Georgia.
Mason made 10 starts at guard, including last Saturday’s divisional-playoff win over Kansas City, and has even taken snaps at fullback. In December, New England coach Bill Belichick called him “one of the most athletic offensive linemen I’ve coached,” adding that while he needed to play better and more consistently, “in terms of athleticism, balance, speed, quickness, he’s very good, very, very talented.”
The Panthers signed cornerback Lou Young to the active roster from their practice squad on Jan. 5. Young had been on the team’s practice squad since Nov. 2014. Signed after starting corner Charles Tillman was placed on injured reserve, Young did not play in the divisional-round game last weekend. Former Tech linebacker and captain Quayshawn Nealy is on the Cardinals practice squad. He has bounced around in his first year in the league. He was signed after the draft by Seattle, cut in the preseason, signed to the Tampa Bay practice squad Nov. 4, released two weeks later and then added to the Arizona practice squad Jan. 12.
Tech is in good position to have a 15th former player win a Super Bowl. The last was former Jackets running back Anthony Allen in Super Bowl 47 with Baltimore in 2013.