CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former University of Missouri defensive linemen refer to their alma mater as “D-Line Zou” because of the school’s recent history of sending players to the NFL.
Over the last six seasons, it’s been nothing new to see the “D-Line Zou” represented in the Super Bowl.
This year is no different with Denver Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray and Carolina Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy set to play in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Ealy started in Carolina’s 49-15 demolition of the Arizona Cardinals in Sunday’s NFC championship game at Bank of America Stadium.
While another former “D-Line Zou” member, Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden, was disappointed, Ealy told me getting to the Super Bowl is a pride shared by the entire Mizzou community.
“It’s me and Shane this year, but that D-Line Zou, that’s all of us and I’m just so proud right now,” Ealy said in the Panthers locker room Sunday night.
After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected defensive end Ziggy Hood in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, he found himself in Super Bowl XLV a season later. Justin Smith, the fourth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2001 draft, played in Super Bowl XLVII with the San Francisco 49ers. Also on that 2012 Niners team was outside linebacker Aldon Smith, a first-round pick in 2011.
The Jets picked defensive tackle Sheldon Richardon in the first round of the 2013 draft and he was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl selection last season.
The Broncos selected Ray in the first round of the 2015 draft while the Cardinals picked Golden in the second round of the same draft.
Each logged four sacks as rookies and Golden had a career-high seven tackles in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Golden told me after Sunday night’s game.
After visiting with Golden, who is a St. Louis native like Richardson and Ealy, he smiled at the notion that perhaps his Cardinals and Richardson’s Jets would meet in next season’s Super Bowl. Then the moment hit him.
“But right now, it’s Shane and Kony and I’m gonna have to hear about it for the next year,” he said in the Cardinals locker room Sunday night.
But it’s OK. The “D-Line Zou” is a brotherhood. And one member of that fraternity is guaranteed to be a Super Bowl champion this year.
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