NEW YORK -- Two FIU Panthers have now reached the Super Bowl. Caylin Hauptmann hopes hell be the first to actually see the field.
Back in 2007, Nick Turnbull was a reserve safety for the Bears but had to watch from the sidelines as Peyton Manning won the Lombardi Trophy for the first time.
Fast forward seven years, and Hauptmann hopes history doesnt repeat itself. Again, Manning stands between an FIU player and the schools first Super Bowl ring.
And again, its a long-shot that Hauptmann sees the field. The rookie offensive lineman hasnt appeared in a game all season with his Seattle Seahawks.
But thats not to mean he doesnt play a crucial role on the NFCs representative in the Super Bowl.
As a scout-team contributor who can play all three positions on the line, Hauptmanns job is to make sure Seahawks defensive ends Red Bryant and Michael Bennett have been prepared to get after Manning, the Broncos spectacular quarterback.
Everyone has their own part to play in this whole thing, Hauptmann said. Whether its quarterbacking, blocking, scout team, anything. Were all just one little piece of the puzzle. And we all know that. Thats the best part of our team.
In that way, Hauptmann is a perfect fit on a team that has broken the mold. Its quarterback (Russell Wilson) is supposedly too short, its star defensive player (Richard Sherman) too loud and stud running back (Marshawn Lynch) too quiet.
Many of its top contributors were drafted later than expected. Hauptmann wasnt drafted at all. And yet, here they are, one win from the Pacific Northwests first Super Bowl championship.
When you go through enough adversity in your life, and enough people tell you no, you dont get drafted or you dont get drafted as high as you want to get drafted, it puts a little chip on your shoulder, Hauptmann said.
Thats doubly true for Hauptmann, who went to junior college before enrolling at FIU in 2010. He didnt participate in the NFL Scouting Combine and didnt have his name called on draft weekend.
Undaunted, Hauptmann signed with the Browns as a rookie free agent and went to camp with them. They waived him just before the regular season began and asked if he wanted to return as a practice-squad member. He didnt have to the Seahawks wanted him on their 53-man roster.
He is a tough guy, Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable said. Extremely powerful, very athletic. And thats all I care about. If they have a good brain and theyre tough, I can do the rest with him. Hes come in and bought in, and hes going to be a good player for us.
And hes been along for an unbelievable ride. Hauptmanns Seahawks play in front of Seattles 12th Man, and that fan base gave the team a rousing sendoff as it drove to the airport Sunday. There were people banging on the side of the bus as it made its way, he said.
And Tuesday, the California native participated in a time-honored ritual: Media Day.
Thousands of reporters and cameramen stuffed the floor at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and even though he was tucked off into a pen with other lower-profile players, Hauptmann was still sought out by reporters from different ends of the country.
Even Entertainment Tonight came over for an interview, but he stayed in the background and let his teammates take the lead.
Hauptmanns family is coming in for Sundays big game, and he hopes to bring them down to the field afterward. That means the Seahawks would have won, and the confetti will be flying.
But make no mistake: If Hauptmann ever gets this chance again, he wants to be one of the five men blocking up front.
Ive realized that most rookies dont play their first year, Hauptmann said. When you come in, you think, Oh, Ive got to play. Ive got to get on the field immediately. But there are so many steps to it.
Theres old guys, guys who have been around the program longer, he added. If my name is called on Sunday, Im in, its no biggie to me. Im ready to play whenever my name is called.