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NFL: Super opportunity

Valencia grad Vereen and COC product Pierre-Paul prepare for a chance at football’s biggest prize

Posted: February 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.

New England Patriots running back and Valencia High graduate Shane Vereen (34) carries the ball during against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 27. Today, Vereen will be able to put his name among a short list of local athletes to appear on a Super Bowl roster.

Some NFL players wait their entire career for this day.

Some never experience it at all.

New England Patriots running back and Valencia High graduate Shane Vereen gets to experience the Super Bowl his rookie year.

Two Santa Clarita Valley products will be present at Super Bowl XLVI today at 3:30 p.m. in Indianapolis, where the Patriots take on the New York Giants – Vereen and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Pierre-Paul played for College of the Canyons in 2007 and he’ll get to enjoy football’s biggest game as just a second-year pro.

He can hardly wait.

“Honestly, I’m just ready to get the game going,” Pierre-Paul told reporters during his Super Bowl media day press conference Tuesday. “Just waiting this long eats at your nerves a little. We have a hotel for the whole week. I’m pretty sure if you look around, everybody is ready to play. I’m ready to play right now. But we can’t and we have to wait. The hype is building up, but I’m not going to let that get to me.”

Only two other Santa Clarita Valley athletes have appeared in the previous 45 Super Bowls, and never two at the same one.

Hart High graduate Joe Kapp quarterbacked the Minnesota Vikings against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
The most recent participant was former COC player J.J. Arrington, who was a running back for the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In a 23-7 loss to the Chiefs in January 1970, Kapp completed 16-of-25 passes for 183 yards and two interceptions.

Unlike Kapp, Arrington wasn’t a starter when he played in the Super Bowl.

The former COC standout had just one rushing attempt in the game for zero yards in the 27-23 loss the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 1, 2009.

Arrington did manage to haul in two passes for 35 yards and returned four kicks for 82 yards.

Today, Pierre-Paul is scheduled to start on the Giants’ defensive line like he has most of this season.

Vereen most likely won’t play. As a member of New England’s 53-man roster, he practices with the team and he’s eligible to be activated at any time.

Teams are allowed to suit up just 45 players for games, and Vereen hasn’t been active in a game since Week 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 27.

Vereen hasn’t seen consistent playtime this season, appearing in just five games and gaining 57 rushing yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.

Even so, as a rookie, his former high school coach made sure to remind him to take it all in when they spoke earlier this week.

“He’s just enjoying the moment and having a great time there, and at the same time, he’s got business to take care of,” said Valencia High football head coach Larry Muir. “I just told him to take it all in.”

Muir coached Vereen during his three-year varsity career from 2004-06 at Valencia, where he earned enough recognition to catch the attention of the University of California, Berkeley.

Three successful years at Cal later, Vereen found himself at the highest level of his sport when the Patriots picked him 56th overall in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

A series of injuries slowed him in training camp leading up to the season and have hampered him throughout the season, which is partly to blame for his limited playing time.

Regardless, Muir has enjoyed watching his former player as he’s navigated his first professional season.

“He scored his first touchdown on Monday Night Football and he’s progressed throughout the year,” Muir said. “He’s been battling injuries throughout the year and it’s been an amazing journey for him.”

But if Pierre-Paul’s sudden emergence says anything, Vereen still has plenty of time.

Despite becoming the first former COC player to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2010 when the Giants took him 15th overall, Pierre-Paul didn’t start a single game as a rookie.

Coming into this season, fellow Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora was battling an injury and going through contract negotiations.

That opened the window for Pierre-Paul.

He quickly took advantage, earning a regular starting spot and later becoming an Associated Press First-Team All-Pro player and a Pro Bowler.

This year, Pierre-Paul started 12 games and amassed 65 tackles, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a safety and a blocked field goal.

The COC product is now a staple on the team’s highly touted defensive line that also includes Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, a pair of two-time All-Pro selections.

“Jason never fails to surprise me,” Tuck said in his media day press conference on Tuesday. “Everyone knows about the guy’s physical talents. The guy is an absolute beast, but what I appreciate about him is that he comes in the film room every day and tries to grow as far as noticing how teams try to attack him and noticing the blocking schemes. That is where he has improved the most.”

Pierre-Paul has made plenty of headlines throughout the playoffs for his actions on and off the field.

After New York’s first-round 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Pierre-Paul told reporters he was “100 percent” sure the Giants would win the next week’s playoff game.

The statement drew criticism and lengthy discussion from the major sports media outlets.

But Pierre-Paul and the Giants continue to back up the tough talk, beating the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers in succession to advance to today’s Super Bowl.

In three playoff games, Pierre-Paul has totalled 16 tackles and 0.5 sacks.

He could be a key factor today in stopping the high-powered Patriot offense.

He may leave Indianapolis a champion.

So far, the SCV is 0-for-2 in the big game.

At least one will go home with a ring this time.


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