Three former Boilers experience different paths to the Super Bowl - Purdue Exponent: Sports

Three former Boilers experience different paths to the Super Bowl

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Posted: Friday, February 3, 2012 10:00 am

On Sunday, two former Boilermakers have an opportunity to join the likes of Matt Light (current), Rosevelt Colvin, Gene Mruczkowski and Brandon Gorin as former Boilermakers who have won Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots in the last decade.

All three have traveled different routes to Super Bowl XLVI.

Rob Ninkovich

A former Boilermaker defensive end, and current New England Patriots linebacker, credited Indiana University with his being drafted in the NFL.

"I think Indiana helped me get to the NFL; I had eight sacks against them in two years," Rob Ninkovich said.

Although he is a starter now, it hasn't always been easy for the sixth year veteran.

Out of high school, Ninkovich was undersized and was looked over by most Divison I schools. The linebacker said his best option out of high school was for him to go to Joliet Junior College.

"It (Joliet Junior College) made me appreciate everything," Ninkovich said. "I had to use my high school pads, I had to buy my own cleats and I only had one pair of gloves all season."

Ninkovich was then cut by the New Orleans Saints a year after the team drafted him in 2007. The former Boilermaker then found himself playing for the Miami Dolphins, a team that went 1-15 that year and became one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL.

After appearing in only four games and recording two tackles on the season, Ninkovich said he remembers sitting in Cam Cameron's office and asking Cameron why he couldn't contribute anything to the team.

"He looked at me and said, 'I don't think you have the skills,'" Ninkovich said. "I took that and moved on; it was just more motivation for me."

This season, Ninkovich has recorded 74 tackles, six sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions for the Patriots.

Fellow Patriots linebacker and former Florida Gator Brandon Spikes said Ninkovich, Niko Koutouvides and Light are great guys to work with.

"The three of them make work interesting," Spikes said. "They make me laugh, and it's good to be in meeting rooms with them. They are great players."

Niko Koutouvides

A former Boilermaker and current Patriots special teams player was seeding his Connecticut lawn when the team called him up and asked him to be on its special teams unit.

"Eight weeks ago, I was spreading seed on my lawn, and I'm mad because it hasn't grown like I wanted it to grow," Koutouvides said. "I was trying to get on any team, let alone get on a team that is playing in the Super Bowl."

Unlike Ninkovich, Koutouvides was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He chose to come to Purdue because Purdue was the first school to recruit him.

"Drew Brees had just beaten Michael Bishop in the Alamo Bowl and that was the place I wanted to be," the Connecticut native said.

Koutouvides was taken with the 116th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, played four years with the team and had short stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos before landing with the Patriots last fall.

"You want to walk away from the game on your own terms, but for a lot of players, that doesn't happen because of the high demand," Koutouvides said. "I'm just grateful that I'm here."

Matt Light

Unlike the other two former Boilermakers in this year's Super Bowl, offensive tackle Matt Light has enjoyed an easier path in the NFL.

Light was drafted by the Patriots with the 48th overall pick in the 2001 draft. He has since played in 155 games as a Patriot and started 153 of them. He also has three Super Bowl rings with the team.

The Greenville, Ohio, native was a part of the Purdue teams in 1998-2000 that participated in the Outback, Alamo and Rose Bowls.

"I had a great run with (Tiller)," Light said. "We obviously took full advantage of the guys that he brought in his first year and made a great run with the number of bowl games we were able to go to. It really turned the program around. It started this tradition. It's been great."

Even after all of his professional success, Light said he will never forget about Tiller and his Purdue family.

"(Tiller) pushed us all to the n-th degree, and I can't thank him enough for helping me to get to where I am now," Light said. "I've always got a special place in my heart for West Lafayette and the Purdue family."

Among his teammates, Light is a prankster. Both Ninkovich and Koutouvides said that he can get along with anybody.

Logan Mankins has played next to Light at guard for seven years. The two have been a part of three Super Bowls as teammates. Mankins said he wouldn't trade the last few years with Light for anything.

"It's been great," Mankins said. "There is nobody I would like to play next to. We have had a great time, played well together and won a lot of games."

After former Florida Gator linebacker Brandon Spikes admitted to having never heard of Purdue and thinking it was an Ivy League school, he said he didn't realize Light went there.

"Light went to Purdue also? They've all got the same outgoing personality," Spikes said when speaking of the three former Boilermakers. "They are just fun to be around. I had never known of Purdue before I knew them."

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