The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers punched their tickets to Super Bowl 50. When these two teams duel in the historical spotlight, three former Utah Utes and one former Utah State Aggie will share, at least to some extent, in part of the glory (sorry BYU, no Cougars made the cut).
Sam Brenner: Brenner is the one Ute who occupies a spot on the AFC Champion’s roster. Brenner, whose mom is in the U.S. Marine Corps, is a 6’2”, 310 lbs. center who has played in the NFL for three years. He spent the first of his career with the Dolphins where he recorded four starts but primarily backed up center Mike Pouncey. The Broncos claimed Brenner off waivers earlier this season. At Utah, Brenner was a two-year starter at guard and left tackle and allowed just two sacks in 25 total games as a junior and senior. He earned Second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2012.
Star Lotulelei: Star is one of two Utes who puts on the black and blue for the team with the league’s best record. This season, as a starter and an anchor of the Panthers’ D-line, Star has recorded 22 tackles, 1 sack, two passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovered. Described by Carolina as an “elite run stuffer and disruptive force,” Star was drafted by the Panthers in the 1st round with the 14th overall pick. If you’re reading this article, you know Star’s college credentials: First-team All-American (one of only three Ute D-lineman in school history to earn that honor), First-team All-Pac-12, 2nd in the nation as a senior with 4 fumble recoveries, Morris Trophy recipient (best D-lineman in Pac-12), etc, etc. One Arizona Cardinals starter had it right, Star is a “monster” and “scary good.”
Brian Blechen: the hard-hitting safety/linebacker is on the Panthers’ practice squad after being picked up as an undrafted rookie free agent by Carolina in 2015. Before practicing against Cam Newton and company, Blechen started all 48 games at Utah. Blechen earned Honorable mention All-Pac-12 three times during his college career and Honorable mention as a freshman in the Mountain West. He was also named a Freshman All-American and finished his career at Utah with 264 tackles and 9 interceptions.
Tyler Larsen: a former Utah State Aggie, Larsen is a guard from Sandy, Utah now on the “future” squad for the Panthers. Larsen signed with Miami as an undrafted free agent in 2014 but was released shortly thereafter. The Washington Redskins then picked up Larsen but, as is common for NFL players, Larsen was then waived for final roster cuts before the start of the Redskins’ season. Not one to give up, Larsen continued to workout for teams and earlier this year (January 2016) Larsen signed a future contract with the Panthers. At Utah State, Larsen started 52 consecutive games for the Aggies and earned First-team All-WAC honors twice and First-team All-MWC as a senior. He was also on the watch lists for the Rimington (outstanding offensive center) and Outland (best interior lineman) trophies.