One’s a two-time Pro Bowler considered one of the best at his position. The other is a rookie just trying to make it in the NFL.
Both went to Maury High School in Norfolk. Both played football at Virginia Tech. And both will be on Super Bowl rosters for the first time in their career come this Sunday (6:30 PM; FOX).
Kam Chancellor is a household name to NFL fans. He’s considered one of best safeties in the league and is part of the feared “Legion of Boom” for the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. He signed a five-year, $29.323 million contract in April and has shown his value in leading the NFL’s top defense. He leads the team with 25 tackles in Seattle’s two playoff games, including 14 against New Orleans and 11 in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco. He also had a big fourth-quarter interception against the 49ers. Outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman calls him the enforcer for the secondary and for good reason as Chancellor, who stands at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, is one of the hardest hitters in the game.
“All the hard hits show how much I love this game and how you’re supposed to play the game,” Chancellor said. “It’s just a matter of proper tackling. Then you can get your feet set and explode through anybody.”
Vinston Painter is barely a household name outside of Virginia, much less in Denver. After four tough years sitting on the bench in Blacksburg, Painter finally got the chance to start in his final season. He made the best of his slim window of opportunity and went on to be drafted in the sixth round by the Broncos. While he had a good preseason camp, it was a game of numbers, as the rookie was cut and then signed to the Broncos’ practice squad. That’s where he made his living, earning $6,000 per week, but not dressing for any games. Just before the AFC Championship Game, Painter was elevated to the 53-man active roster and saw a bump in salary to $42,000 per week, plus the bonus for winning the championship.
Now, they’ll both be on the sidelines for the biggest game of them all.
“I talked to him two weeks ago and we were just talking about how we were in the Super Bowl and how it was just crazy, man, just coming from where we’re from, the same high school,” Chancellor said this week from New Jersey. “And then we’re the first ones from our high school in the Super Bowl.”
Though their paths have drifted apart, Chancellor and Painter both got their beginnings in Norfolk, made their way to Blacksburg and now have the chance to realize every young football player’s dream: winning a Super Bowl.
"I never would've thought my rookie year would play out like this," Painter said Saturday from New Jersey. "Not only do I get to go to the Super Bowl, but I get to play against my old teammate from Virginia Tech and Maury High School. Playing against a friend just makes it that much more exciting."
While it’s uncertain if Painter will be on the 45-man dress squad for Sunday’s game (he was inactive for the AFC Championship), it is certain that Virginia Tech’s two players on Super Bowl rosters this year are more than perennial college football powers Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Florida State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Auburn have in the game this year. Tech is one of 15 colleges with a player on both squads represented in the Super Bowl, but Maury High School is one of only three high schools in the country with two players on the 53-man roster in the game (Colony High and Troy High, both in California, are the others).
“We at Virginia Tech, as well as the city of Norfolk and Maury High School, are excited for both Kam Chancellor and Vinston Painter,” said Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator who also heads up the 757 recruiting region that both players came from. “We are so proud of these young men and their accomplishments. As we’ve shared in their success at Virginia Tech, we will continue to share in their success at the next level. Go Bronc-Hawks!”
Painter joked at media day this week about how the conditions at Maury’s practice field proved difficult, but made for some great memories, and Chancellor echoed those sentiments.
“It was rough practicing on that field,” Chancellor said. “It was all dust. Every day at practice, your legs turned white from all the dirt and stuff. And then when it rained, it turned into a mud bowl out there. We’ve got a bunch of stories from that field. Those were some great times.
“The town is behind us. You know they’re behind us 100% and they tell us that all the time. It feels good to have 757 and Virginia Tech behind us.”
While Chancellor is flourishing at the strong safety role in the NFL, many don’t realize he came to Virginia Tech as a two-star quarterback who had just one other scholarship offer … from FCS school JMU. After arriving as a QB, he was quickly moved to the defensive side of the ball by Bud Foster. After that, he played three different positions in four years, starting first at cornerback and playing as a true freshman. During his sophomore season, the staff moved him to rover, where he excelled, registering 79 tackles and an interception. Then they moved him again before his junior season, shoring up the critical free safety spot in Tech’s scheme. As a senior, he earned second-team All-ACC honors, completing quite a journey.
“I think a lot of my game became more elite in college,” he said. “I think that’s pretty much how I got my craft.”
In Virginia Tech’s proud football history, just 11 Hokies have earned a combined 14 Super Bowl rings. One of these two guys will become the 12th player to earn a ring. Come Sunday, one of them will celebrate on the field of MetLife Stadium with his teammates, while the other will be forced to try again next year. Regardless, Chancellor knows how special of a moment this is for two kids who grew up a few miles apart in Norfolk.
“We’re happy for this achievement to get here, and we’re just both ready to take advantage of the moment,” he said.
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