With Super Bowl LVI just days away, we thought we’d highlight the numerous Michigan connections on the rosters and coaching staffs of the two participating teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams.
► Cornerback Trae Waynes
Michigan State University (2011-14)
A first-team All-Big Ten selection and a third-team All-American in 2014 as part of Michigan State’s “No Fly Zone” secondary, Waynes was selected No. 11 overall in the 2015 draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
A productive starter for the Vikings across five seasons, Waynes recorded seven interceptions and 42 pass breakups in 74 games (53 starts). That helped him land a big money deal from the Bengals in free agency two years ago, but the marriage has been a disastrous one due to injuries. He missed all of last season with a pectoral injury and was limited to five games in 2021 because of a hamstring issue. Despite being active for the all three playoff games, he hasn’t seen the field for a defensive snap.
► Offensive tackle Riley Reiff
Detroit Lions (2012-16)
A first-round pick for the Lions in 2012, Reiff started three seasons at left tackle for the franchise before move to right tackle to make way for the addition of Taylor Decker in 2016. Reiff departed in free agency following that season, signing a massive contract with the Minnesota Vikings, where he started 58 games in four seasons as the team’s blindside blocker.
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Hitting the open market again this past offseason, he signed a one-year contract (with a second voidable year) with the Bengals, earning the team’s starting right tackle job. He started 12 games before an ankle injury put him on the shelf.
► Defensive tackle Mike Daniels
Detroit Lions (2019)
The longtime Green Bay Packer and 2017 Pro Bowler was scooped up by the Lions following his release days ahead of the opening of training camp in 2019. It proved to be a highly forgettable season as injuries limited him to a career-low 203 defensive snaps.
Daniels signed with the Bengals the following August and slogged through another injury-filled season, recording a meager 17 tackles in 11 games. Still, Cincinnati brought him back on another one-year deal in 2021, only to cut him ahead of the regular season. He’s spent most of this year on the team’s practice squad, being temporarily elevated for two contests.
► Running back Chris Evans
University of Michigan (2016-20)
Evans posted modest production during his Michigan career, averaging 705 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns his first three seasons before being ruled academically ineligible for the 2019 campaign. He returned during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and mustered just 160 yards and one score.
Still, the Bengals saw value in his versatile skill set, drafting Evans in the sixth round this year. Appearing in 14 games, he only saw the field for 95 offensive snaps and 116 special teams reps as a rookie. He scored the first touchdown on his career against the Lions, hauling in a 24-yard score from Joe Burrow in the Bengals’ 34-11 victory.
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► Defensive end Khalid Kareem
Farmington Hills Harrison High School (class of 2016)
After entertaining the idea of staying in state with UM or MSU, the four-star recruit ended up at Notre Dame, where he racked up 20.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks his final two seasons. A fifth-round draft pick in 2020, he’s played a rotational role for the Bengals, recording 28 tackles in 23 games his first two seasons.
► Cornerback Darius Phillips
Robichaud High School (class of 2013), Western Michigan (2013-17)
With the Broncos, Phillips was a big-time playmaker, snagging 12 interceptions his three seasons as a starter. He was also a dangerous return man for the Mid-American Conference school, bringing back five kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns.
A fifth-round pick in 2018, he’s continued to have return responsibilities as a pro, but hasn’t been nearly as successful, averaging 7.0 yards on punts and 21.7 yards on kickoffs without a score. A starting cornerback much of the 2020 campaign, he was relegated to a backup role this year, playing a career-low 90 defensive snaps. He’s currently on IR with a shoulder injury.
► Linebacker Joe Bachie
Michigan State University (2016-19)
A two-time captain for the Spartans, Bachie twice racked up 100 tackles in a season and set personal-bests in tackles for a loss (9.5) and sacks (3.5) in 2019, before his collegiate career was cut short after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Undrafted in 2020, he initially signed with New Orleans before finishing his rookie year on Philadelphia’s active roster.
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Bachie was claimed off waivers by the Bengals in May and appeared in nine games this season, including two starts. He’s currently on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in December.
► Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan
Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach (2016-17)
Matthew Stafford’s position coach for two seasons, the Lions parted ways with the well-respected assistant shortly before Matt Patricia was officially hired as the franchise’s head coach. It was less than a week before Callahan resurfaced as the Raiders QB coach, where he spent one year before joining the Bengals as an offensive coordinator.
After finishing bottom-three in scoring his first two seasons, the Bengals offense took off in Burrow’s second year and the addition of receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The team’s 27.1 points per game were the third-most in franchise history.
► Linebackers coach Al Golden
Detroit Lions assistant coach (2016-2019)
The former Temple and University of Miami head coach landed in Detroit after his five-year stint with the Hurricanes, joining Jim Caldwell’s staff as a tight ends coach. In that role he oversaw Eric Ebron’s best two season in a Lions uniform. Following the switch to Patricia, Golden was moved to the other side of the ball, where he led the linebackers until he was fired following the 2019 season.
Serving in the same capacity for the Bengals, Golden has worked with a group headlined by Logan Wilson, a third-round pick in 2020 who racked up 100 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble this past season.
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► Defensive quality control coach Jordan Kovacs
University of Michigan (2008-12)
A former walk-on for the Wolverines, he was named a captain and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in his final season at the school. Undrafted in 2013, he spent time on five NFL rosters, appearing in 28 games, primarily as a special teams contributor.
After his playing career concluded, he joined Michigan’s coaching staff in 2018 as a defensive and special teams assistant. He’s been with the Bengals as a defensive quality control coach the past three seasons.
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► Secondary coach Steve Jackson
Detroit Lions assistant coach (2013)
A third-round draft pick in 1991, Jackson played nine seasons, all with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise. He transitioned to coaching two years after retirement, coaching safeties for the Buffalo Bills.
Cincinnati is his sixth coaching stop, which included a one-year stint with the Lions in 2013. He’s been coaching the Bengals cornerbacks the past two seasons.
► Quarterback Matthew Stafford
Detroit Lions (2009-20)
There’s no introduction needed for the No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft. In 11 seasons leading the Lions, Stafford was one of the most-prolific producers of the past decade, smashing nearly every meaningful franchise passing record in the process.
The Lions acquiesced to Stafford’s request to be traded this past offseason, sending him to the Rams for Jared Goff and three draft picks, including two first-rounders. In his first season outside of Detroit, Stafford posted a passer rating above 100 for just the second time of his career, despite leading the NFL in interceptions. More important to his legacy, he won his first division title and his first three playoff games, en route to this Super Bowl appearance.
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► Center Brian Allen
Michigan State University (2014-17)
A 38-game starter for the Spartans, Allen earned second-team all-conference honors three consecutive seasons. The Los Angeles Rams would go on to make him a fourth-round selection in the 2018 draft.
Allen moved into the starting lineup his second season with the Rams, but missed the final seven games after suffering a knee injury. He returned to play 16 games this year, serving as a key cog in an offense that averaged 27.1 points this season.
► Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson
Detroit Lions (2016-19)
The Lions selected Robinson in the second round of the 2016 draft. He appeared in 58 games across four seasons for the franchise, including 37 starts. His playing time and production dipped under Patricia and Robinson eventually departed in free agency, accepting a two-year, $17 million contract from the Rams in 2020.
A cardiovascular issue sidelined him the first eight games of the 2020 season, but he hasn’t missed a game since, appearing in 25 straight. Playing more than 500 snaps this season, he recorded a career-best 67 tackles to go with 2.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
► Cornerback David Long
University of Michigan (2016-18)
A two-year starter for the Wolverines, Long earned second-team all-conference honors as a junior before declaring for the draft. The Rams snagged the 5-foot-11, 196-pounder in the third round in 2019, but used him sparingly on defense his first two seasons. That jumped to more than 500 snaps this season as he saw time both outside and in the slot.
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Targeted 48 times in coverage, opposing quarterbacks completed just 60.9% of their passes for 374 yards and one touchdown. Long, meanwhile, tallied 40 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception.
► Wide receiver Brandon Powell
Detroit Lions (2018-19)
The Lions signed Powell as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He earned a practice squad job after catching 16 passes in the preseason and ended up spending six games on the active roster.
After being cut following training camp the next year, Powell spent two years with the Atlanta Falcons, appearing in 15 games as the team’s return man in 2020.
After brief stints with Buffalo and Miami, Los Angeles signed Powell in November, where he served as the team’s return man down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.
► Senior coaching assistant John Bonamego
Detroit Lions special teams coordinator (2013-14, 2019), Central Michigan head coach (2015-18)
A longtime special teams coordinator, Bonamego worked for three different head coaches during two short stints with the Lions. During the time between, Bonamego left to become the coach of the Chippewas.
He led Central Michigan to bowl games each of his first three seasons, but the team fell short in each of those postseason contests. He was let go by the school after posting a 1-11 record in 2018.
The Rams hired Bonamego less than two months after he was fired by the Lions at the conclusion of the 2019 season. After one year as the team’s special teams coordinator, he shifted to a senior assistant role last offseason.