Feb 9, 2024 - News

Virginia's ties to this year's Super Bowl

Illustration of hand holding up football

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Virginia might not have an NFL team — the closest we've got are the Commanders, who haven't been to a Super Bowl since the '90s — but the state still has ties to this weekend's big game.

Most notably, the Kansas City Chiefs were named after H. Roe Bartle, a Richmonder whose nickname was "The Chief."

  • He grew up in Richmond in the early 1900s, went to Fork Union Military Academy and later became Kansas City mayor.

Flashback: The Chiefs have been stacked with Virginians in the past.

  • Hall of Famer and 1972's NFL Man of the Year Willie Lanier went to Maggie L. Walker High School when it was one of two schools for Black students in Richmond and played for the Chiefs from 1967 to 1977.
  • Former safety Juan Thornhill went to UVA and won two Super Bowls with the Chiefs. He now plays for the Cleveland Browns.
  • The team's former personnel executive until 2021 was Michael Davis, who went to Highland Springs High School and played for Virginia State University.

Zoom out: The Chiefs have at least three other Virginians on their current roster.

  • Chamarri Conner graduated from Virginia Tech and is a defensive back in his first season for the Chiefs.
  • Then there are two 757 natives: Derrick Nnadi, who is injured but considered one of the team's best defensive tackles, and Cole Christiansen, a linebacker promoted to the active roster in January.

Meanwhile, the 49ers have defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who was born in Richmond and went to Benedictine Prep but has a knee injury, and Oren Burks, a linebacker from Alexandria.

  • Nick Sorensen, a defensive assistant in his first season with the 49ers, played football at Virginia Tech and went to high school in Northern Virginia.
  • Former wide receiver Isaiah Winstead who was cut in December is from Richmond and went to Highland Springs, where he would've overlapped with K'Von Wallace — a safety for the Tennessee Titans who graduated in 2016.

And don't forget: Four Virginia puppies will be playing in the 20th annual Puppy Bowl on Sunday, too.

  • One is Cronut the Shar-Pei from Chesapeake.
  • The rest are from Troy and include Moosh the Australian Shepherd; Stryker the Border Collie mix and Levi the Great Dane.

Sabrina's thought bubble: I'm rooting for the Great Dane.

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