The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of pro football, and the Portland State Vikings have more players in this year’s big game than Auburn, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio St. combined. Sounds great, especially for PSU Head Football Coach Nigel Burton.
“All Super Bowl’s are great,” Burton told Newschannel 8, “you know, the parties in the day and all those things, but to have two guys, who played here at Portland State that were not just great players, but great people, great students, it’ll be a great day.”
Burtonis talking about former PSU football stars Julius Thomas, a tight end for the Denver Broncos and DeShawn Shead, a cornerback and special teams player for the Seattle Seahawks. They have put PSU in the spotlight on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I really enjoyed living in the city of Portland, going to Portland State, said Thomas, who added, “I think something that really helped me a lot was being an undersized post player in basketball. It taught me that you have to be crafty, you’ve got to be creative out there and you’ve got to work hard.”
Yes, Thomas was a four-year basketball player at PSU turned football player his final season.
“We always knew he was going to be special,” said Burton. "We didn’t have any question of that. To say that within three years he would be a Pro Bowler catching passes from Peyton Manning and playing in the Super Bowl, that might have been a slight stretch.”
Burton says he told Thomas if he wanted to be an NFL guy he had to be the best in practice every day. The 6-foot-5 inch Thomas used the advice.
“When I first started playing football at Portland State," he said, "my goal was to do everything I could to give myself a chance to play in this league. I think as soon as I was drafted, the Super Bowl becomes your next goal.”
On the other side of the field is DeShawn Shead, who was a standout player at PSU when he took the field as a freshman in 2008. “
"I had a wonderful time at Portland State,” said Shead.
“Great atmosphere, great coaches and great community. I had a real good time,” said Snead.
The 24-year-old Shead is in his second season in the NFL. He plays mostly special teams for Seattle, but in the preseason intercepted a pass from Broncos backup QB Brock Osweiler.
“Football wise, I learned a lot of technique,” said Shead, about his PSU days. He added, “I gained a lot of experience, played with a lot of great players, so they definitely molded me pretty well.”
Burton says every bit of exposure helps the program. It also shows if you're good enough, the road to the NFL can also come through PSU. One way or another, one of the Vikings will be a Super Bowl Champion and Burton is going to enjoy it all.
“I just want to see a great game,” Burton told Newschannel 8. “I want to see those two guys play really well. As long as a Vike comes out the MVP I’m good.”