HOUSTON — Falcons defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman shook his head trying to figure out where he was on Feb. 3, 2002 — exactly 15 years ago Friday — when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady posted the first of his four Super Bowl wins.
“Man, I was 11 years old,” the former Gopher said Wednesday, four days before he tries to stop Brady from winning a fifth ring in Super Bowl LI. “I was probably in sixth or seventh grade.”
Well, Ra’Shede, you have a former Gophers teammate who can top that.
“I was eight,” said Falcons outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, one of four rookies that could start Sunday. “This doesn’t happen often, being a rookie playing in the Super Bowl. You have to capitalize on it because it may never come again.”
Yes, the top team in the NFC might be known for quarterback Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s No. 1 scoring attack. But the defense does have two former Gophers in its front seven on defense.
“That says a lot about the Minnesota program that we have,” Hageman said. “Players who actually make it to the NFL. The fact that me and Campbell played together for a year at Minnesota and now we’re playing together in the Super Bowl, I feel is a pretty cool deal.”
Hageman was a second-round draft pick in 2014. Campbell was a fourth-rounder in 2016. They helped beat two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks — Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers — in back-to-back playoff games to get to this point.
“Everything has been a highlight, and it’s continuing to grow each day,” said Hageman, a Minneapolis native who played at Washburn High School. “Even practice is cool. I’m still painting the picture of this whole Super Bowl experience.”
Heck, the media doesn’t even bother them. Campbell sounded like the anti-Marshawn Lynch when he said, “This media part is the highlight for me. It kind of forces me to come out of my comfort zone. I’m not a big talker, but being here, this is my highlight so far. Chatting with everybody.”