Tony McDaniel (center). Photo from Seattle Seahawks.
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee has five former players — plus two coaches — in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII, but only one plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
His path to NFL success may have been the most unlikely.
Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel didn’t really do much during his Tennessee career. He left with a year of eligibility remaining. He wasn’t drafted. And yet here he is in his eighth season of NFL football.
By having a career that long, McDaniel’s already beaten the odds. But he also started 15 games in 2013, playing the most extensive role of his career.
Here are capsules on McDaniel and the other six players and coaches with ties to Tennessee:
Tony McDaniel, DT, Seattle Seahawks
Hometown: Columbia, S.C.
At UT: 2003-2005
Highlights: Started only one game at UT and left after junior season, registering 33 career tackles and one sack.
Drafted: Undrafted, signed a free-agent contract with Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006.
NFL career: Spent three seasons with Jacksonville and four with Miami until signing with Seattle before the season. McDaniel had only five career starts in seven NFL seasons prior to this year. In 2013, he’s started 15 games and has career-high 53 tackles.
Kippy Brown, WRs coach, Seattle
At UT: 1983-89; 1993-94; 2009
Notable: Hired by Johnny Majors in 1983, the former Memphis State quarterback has had three stints as an assistant coach at UT. Most recently, he served as an assistant to Lane Kiffin in 2009 and then briefly served as interim head coach until Derek Dooley was hired.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Hometown: New Orleans, La.
At UT: 1994-1997
Highlights: Considered one of the greatest QBs in college history, Manning holds 42 NCAA, SEC and UT records. He was an All-American and Heisman runner-up in 1997 after completing his career with 11,201 passing yards.
Drafted: First round, No. 1 overall pick, by Indianapolis Colts in 1998.
NFL career: Joined the Broncos in 2012 after a 14-year career with the Colts. Manning is a 14-time Pro Bowl selection and an eight-time AFC Offensive Player of the Year. He won a Super Bowl with the Colts after the 2006 regular season and fell just short in a loss to New Orleans three years later.
Britton Colquitt, P, Broncos
At UT: 2004-2008
Highlights: Joined his father, uncle and brother in occupying the top four spots on UT’s all-time punting list. He was a consensus all-SEC first team selection in 2006.
Drafted: Undrafted, but signed as a free agent.
NFL career: Colquitt has been the regular punter for the Broncos for the last four seasons. In 2011, he had a career-high 47.4-yard punting average. In 2012, he netted 42.1 per punt.
Robert Ayers, DE, Broncos
Hometown: Clio, S.C.
At UT: 2004-2008
Highlights: Emerged as a fixture in the starting lineup his final year. He led the Vols and was third in the SEC with 15.5 tackles for loss and was named All-SEC by coaches. Ayers grew up in Jersey City, not far from the Super Bowl site, before moving South in eighth grade.
Drafted: First round, No. 19 overall, by Broncos in 2009.
NFL career: In his fifth season at Denver, Ayers has a career-high 5.5 sacks and 29 tackles in 2013.
Malik Jackson, DE, Broncos
Hometown: Van Nuys, Calif.
At UT: 2010-2011
Highlights: Transferred to Tennessee from Southern California and started 24 games during his 2-year career with the Vols. He led the team in tackles for loss, sacks and quarterback hurries in 2011.
Drafted: Fifth round, No. 137 overall, by the Broncos in 2012.
NFL career: Jackson leads the Broncos with 11 tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hits in 2013. Made his first postseason start and sacked Philip Rivers in the divisional round game against San Diego.
Jim Bob Cooter, offensive assistant, Denver
At UT: 2002-2005
Notable: A three-time academic All-SEC selection, Cooter appeared in three games during his UT career. Cooter just completed his first season with the Broncos. He was on the offensive quality control staff for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 and spent three years before that with the Colts.