Super Bowl 53 is all about the Patriots, the Rams — and the Raiders.
The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders, that is.
Three members of George Smith’s loaded 2009 squad — James White, Phillip Dorsett and Lamarcus Joyner — will be on the field Sunday, which is both an incredible feat and a testament to just how good that team was.
No, they did not win the national or even the state championship that year. Bradenton Manatee stunned St. Thomas in the Class 5A semifinals. But a ridiculous 11 members of that team went on to make the NFL, making it perhaps the most talented collection of high school players ever assembled.
And on Sunday, they will chase football’s ultimate prize.
Dorsett and White, who play wide receiver and running back for the Patriots, will try to beat Lamarcus Joyner, a free safety for the Rams.
“It’s a blessing,” said Dorsett, who is appearing in his second consecutive Super Bowl with New England. “I would never thought about [this happening]. Honestly, our goal was just to go to college, get a scholarship.”
Joyner on Monday told Seminoles.com: “I won’t downplay how mind-blowing this is. But when I go out there on Sunday, I have to put all those things aside and try not to be star-struck, try not to be too passionate or too emotional. Just let the game come to me and then reflect on all those things after the end result.”
Dorsett and Joyner are going for their first Super Bowl rings.
White, meanwhile, already has a title. And he probably should have been the MVP of Super Bowl 51, catching a Super Bowl-record 14 passes and scoring three touchdowns. And he’s 17 receptions shy of Jerry Rice’s record for catches in the Super Bowl over the course of a career.
White knows his old coach will be watching Sunday — with perhaps a bit of internal conflict. How do you root for one former player over another? Smith, who retired from coaching but is still St. Thomas’ athletic director, called White last week to wish him luck.
“You could have never imagined that,” White said of teaming up with Dorsett in the Super Bowl. “Honestly, it was a real big coincidence. Phil’s a great football player. Even back in high school you could tell. Obviously, you know he has the speed, works hard. Works extremely hard in practice, in the weight room. It’s continued to show. He may not have got to play as much earlier in the year, but whenever his number is called, he answers.”