This Super Sunday is a special one around these parts. For only the second time ever, a quarterback from the University of Delaware will be starting the game. Unless you have been living under a rock the last two weeks, you obviously already know this. Joe Flacco will join Rich Gannon on Sunday as the only Hens to ever play sports' most important position on its biggest stage.
The hope for many UD admirers is that Flacco will enjoy a better day than Gannon did 10 years earlier when he threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions (two of which were returned for scores) in a 48-21 loss. In Gannon's defense, his Raiders were facing their former coach, Jon Gruden. Oakland was also forced to return to its old cadence system (which Gruden invented and shared with his new team) during the game because its center flaked out and disappeared 72 hours before kickoff. As a result, Tampa Bay knew almost every play Gannon called as he was calling it - not exactly ideal circumstances for a signal caller to have success.
The one thing that has stuck out to me this week, as opposed to the stretch leading up to Gannon's appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII, is the excitement surrounding Flacco's presence in the game.
Ten years ago there was virtually no buzz about Gannon representing Delaware in the Super Bowl. People were happy for Gannon and some stories were written, but the Blue Hen fan base hardly adopted the Raiders as their own in support of The quarterback.
This time around you can't seem to walk 25 feet in Newark without passing someone who is either sporting a purple Flacco Ravens jersey or a blue UD No. 5 jersey. Raven-fever has reached epidemic pitch in the First State.
Why the difference?
Both are local kids, who came to UD from the Delaware Valley. Both enjoyed great careers with the Hens. And both were good men off the field who represented the university with class.
But, for whatever reason, the folks around here have embraced Flacco in a way they never did with Gannon.
Hens admirers have to feel confident about the fact that Sunday will go smoother for Flacco than it did for Gannon.
After playing all season long to be viewed as an elite quarterback so he could get paid like one, Flacco's oversized chip on his shoulder is finally gone.
Thanks to the postseason run he turned in, the quarterback is definitely getting paid this offseason and he has many viewing him as elite. After-all, Flacco just out-played Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a three-week span, so it'd be hard to argue he is anything but elite right now.
Does that translate to success on Sunday? Who knows. But one thing is certain, the magnitude of the event is not going to overwhelm Flacco. The guy his teammates at UD used to call "Joe Cool," never gets nervous - no matter the stakes.
In other words, this stage is certainly not too big for the former Blue Hen. Maybe that's what has everyone around here so excited for him.