Quarterback Joe Flacco (at right) and offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski (below left), who both earned All-American honors for the Blue Hens during their stellar playing careers in Newark, helped lead the Baltimore Ravens to a 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots Jan. 20 in National Football League's AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium.
The Ravens will take on the San Francisco 49ers today (Feb. 3) at the Superdome in New Orleans. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised live on CBS Sports.
Flacco and Gradkowski will be the fourth and fifth former Blue Hen players to compete in one of the world's most-watched sporting events. Ivory Sully played special teams for the Los Angeles Rams vs. Pittsburgh in 1980, former NFL Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon started at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay in 2003, and tight end Ben Patrick caught a touchdown pass for the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 vs. Pittsburgh.
In addition, former Blue Hens wide receiver Jamin Elliott was a member of the practice squad for New England when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVII over the Carolina Panthers in 2004.
Delaware becomes the first NCAA Division I FCS school to have two different players start at quarterback (Gannon and Flacco) in the Super Bowl and is one of only 10 school nationally to accomplish that feat, joining Alabama, Purdue, Notre Dame, California, UCLA, Stanford, Brigham Young, Maryland, and Washington State.
Since Sully, Gannon, and Patrick all played on teams that lost, Flacco and Gradkowski will be looking to become the first former Delaware players to participate for the Super Bowl champions
However, Elliott did earn a ring for being part of New England championship team in 2005.
Flacco continued his outstanding playoff performance as he hit on 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. He helped the Ravens rally from a 13-7 halftime deficit as he threw a five-yard scoring strike to Dennis Pitta in the third quarter and scoring tosses of 3 and 11 yards to Anquan Boldin the fourth quarter.
Flacco, a fifth-year NFL pro, had led Baltimore to the post-season for the fifth straight season, becoming the first player in NFL history to accomplish. Sunday's victory was his sixth career playoff road victory, more than any quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Gradkowski, a fourth round draft pick back in April, has been a backup offensive lineman and special teams player for Ravens throughout his rookie season.
Flacco and Gradkowski both enjoyed outstanding careers at Delaware under former head coach K.C. Keeler as each earned All-American honors with Flacco leading the Hens to the 2007 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title and Gradkowski leading the 2010 squad to the national title game.
The Ravens will head to the Super Bowl for the first time since defeating the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.