The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will play in Super Bowl LV Feb. 7. Here are some local connections to watch for in the game (in alphabetical order):
Buccaneers Linebacker Shaquil Barrett
Born in Baltimore, Shaquil Barrett stayed long enough to briefly attend City, but he moved to Nebraska at the age of 15. He played his college ball at Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado State and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos in 2014. He turned into a solid pass rusher, piling up 14.0 sacks from 2015-2018. He signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Tampa Bay in 2019 … which turned out to be one of best moves Jason Licht has made as Bucs GM considering Barrett posted a league-best 19.5 sacks in 2019. Barrett, who is playing on a $15.8 million franchise tender this year, racked up 8.0 sacks during the regular season and 3.0 in the Bucs’ win at Green Bay Jan. 24. He’s scheduled to enter the free-agent market at the age of 28 this spring.
Buccaneers Center Ryan Jensen
Ryan Jensen, 29, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Ravens and spent the majority of the 2013 season on the practice squad, but he gradually saw an uptick in his responsibilities the next few years. In 2017, he started all 16 games at center for the Ravens, becoming a fan favorite for his toughness and nastiness in the trenches. He also earned praise for swiftly coming to Joe Flacco’s defense after a dirty hit by Kiko Alonso knocked the quarterback out of an October 2017 game. Jensen signed a four-year, $42 million deal with the Buccaneers after that season. He’s now known as perhaps the best center in the game.
Buccaneers Assistant Defensive Line Coach Lori Locust
Lori Locust spent three weeks as a Ravens coaching intern during training camp in 2018, becoming the first female coach in team history. A former defensive end on a semi-pro football team, Locust worked with defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and then-defensive line coach Joe Cullen. “Sometimes in my head there would be a flash like, ‘Wow, no other woman has ever done this before,'” Locust said after she completed the internship. “That’s not the reason why I do what I do. I want to coach. But sitting and listening to us breaking film down, watching it with the guys, having [Terrell Suggs] in the same room and hearing him talk to the players, that’s special.”
Chiefs Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel
Dorian O’Daniel, who graduated from Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., has been a special-teams stalwart for the Chiefs since being drafted out of Clemson in 2018. The 26-year-old missed the last five games of the 2020 regular season with a high ankle sprain but has played in the Chiefs’ past two playoff games. O’Daniel recorded the first regular-season sack of his career in 2020, though he did record a sack in the playoffs last year.
Buccaneers Left Tackle Donovan Smith
Donovan Smith, 27, graduated from Owings Mills High School before playing his college ball at Penn State. Drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Smith has started all but two games since breaking into the league. One of those misses came this year, when he missed a December game due to being in close contact with a family member who had tested positive for COVID-19. He’ll be protecting Tom Brady’s blind side in Super Bowl LV.
Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Steve Spagnuolo, who is after his second Super Bowl ring in as many years as the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator, was on the Ravens’ defensive staff from 2013-2014. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had worked with Spagnuolo in Philadelphia for eight years, and their paths would cross in an unusual way after that. Spagnuolo served as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009-2011, and Harbaugh’s Ravens beat the Rams, 37-7, in September 2011. Spagnuolo didn’t appreciate the way Harbaugh coached the final minutes and after the game told his wife that they’d never speak to Harbaugh again – which, of course, turned out not to be the case. Spagnuolo was fired by the Rams after the 2011 season, and then was fired as the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints after the 2012 season. That led him back to Harbaugh, who hired him as a senior defensive assistant in 2013 and promoted him to be the team’s secondary coach in 2014. All’s well that ends well.
Dan Williams, Assistant To The Head Coach, Kansas City Chiefs
Former Stevenson quarterback Dan Williams had a productive career as a quarterback in Owings Mills, Md., from 2015-2018 before becoming an coaching intern for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, when he worked with the team’s quarterbacks and tight ends. This year, he’s assisting head coach Andy Reid with the day-to-day operations of the team. His duties “include overseeing player and staff communications with the head coach and managing the football calendar, which includes the offseason program, mini-camp and in-season schedules,” according to the Chiefs’ website. At Stevenson, Williams was a first-team All-MAC selection in 2017 and 2018 and was the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2017. He was a college counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana in June 2018.
Chiefs Right Guard Stefen Wisniewski
Stefen Wisniewski, the son of former Baltimore Colts nose tackle Leo Wisniewski, is aiming for his third Super Bowl ring in four years; he won a ring with the Philadelphia Eagles in February 2018 and another with the Chiefs in February 2020. Because of injuries along Kansas City’s offensive line, Wisniewski will start at right guard for the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. A second-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2011, he was mostly a starting center during the first five years of his NFL career. Since then, he’s been a fill-in starter for the Eagles, Chiefs and Steelers. He started the 2020 season in Pittsburgh but was released in November, and the 31-year-old signed with the Chiefs later that month.
OTHER CONNECTIONS: Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith, who graduated from Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, Md., has been with Tampa Bay since 2016, mostly contributing on special teams the past two years. … Buccaneers cornerback Ross Cockrell, who went to Walt Whitman in Bethesda, Md., before graduating elsewhere, is in his first year with Tampa Bay. He has started two games for the Buccaneers at corner this year and contributes on special teams. … Buccaneers reserve defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter has played in three games for Tampa Bay this year after spending a few weeks on the Ravens’ practice squad in 2019. … Chiefs tight end Nick Keizer, who has caught six passes this year and contributes on special teams, originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens in 2018 but didn’t make the team. … Chiefs defensive end Demone Harris, who is on the practice squad, spent some time on the Ravens’ practice squad in 2019. … Buccaneers center A.Q. Shipley and Buccaneers running back Kenjon Barner are both on injured reserve, but Shipley played for the Ravens in 2014 and Barner spent time with the Ravens during training camp in 2020. … Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen was the quarterbacks coach at the University of Maryland from 1992-1993.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers