Here are some players and coaches with local connections to keep an eye on when the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots face off in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta Feb. 3.
Todd Gurley, Running Back
Local Connection: From Baltimore
Gurley quickly developed into one of the best running backs in the game after being drafted out of Georgia in 2015. A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, he earned Offensive Player of the Year honors for the 2017 season, during which he posted 2,093 yards and 19 touchdowns from scrimmage -- both league highs. He followed that up by tallying 1,831 total yards and a league-best 21 touchdowns in 2018. He missed time at the end of the season with a knee injury and carried the ball just four times against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game Jan. 20, so his role in the Super Bowl is up in the air.
Rob Havenstein, Right Tackle
Local Connection: From Mount Airy, Md.; graduate of Linganore High School
Drafted out of Wisconsin in 2015, the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Havenstein became the Rams' starting right tackle while the team was still in St. Louis. He hasn't let go of his grip on the position in Los Angeles; he started 15 games at right tackle in 2017 and 16 games this year. He signed a four-year extension before the season that will keep him a Ram through the 2022 season. He
began playing football at Linganore High
Micah Kiser, Linebacker
Local Connection: From Baltimore; graduate of Gilman
Kiser turned into one of the best defensive players in the ACC at Virginia, where he made 408 tackles -- including 19 sacks -- during his four-year career from 2014-2017. He led the conference in tackles in 2016 and 2017. He
won the William V. Campbell Trophy
in 2017 for his work on and off the field at Virginia. Since becoming a Ram, he's mostly contributed on special teams.
Blake Countess, Defensive Back
Local Connection: From Owings Mills, Md.; graduate of Good Counsel
Countess was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he was released before playing in a regular-season game for the Eagles. He was signed to the Rams' practice squad shortly after being released and has played in 37 regular-season games for Los Angeles since then. Most of his work has come on special teams; he returned 17 kicks for 419 yards this year. He's posted two interceptions as a pro. Countess' status is uncertain for the Super Bowl due to a foot issue.
Bill Belichick, Head Coach
Local Connection: From Annapolis, Md.; graduate of Annapolis High School
Belichick was born in Nashville but grew up in Annapolis, and his dad, Steve, coached at Navy for 33 years. The 2018 season marked the 44th season that Belichick coached in the NFL and his 20th season as a head coach. Belichick has won five Super Bowls as a head coach, most in NFL history. He also won two Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants.
JC Jackson, Cornerback
Local Connection: Played at Maryland from 2016-2017
Recruited by Maryland out of Riverside Community College, Jackson played for the Terps from 2016-2017. He picked off three passes and defensed seven more during his final season in College Park, Md., and he was the team's best corner by the end of his tenure. A 6-foot-1, 198-pound cornerback with solid athletic tools, he went undrafted due to character concerns stemming from missteps before he attended Maryland. The Patriots signed Jackson as a free agent, and he's developed into a starting corner. He had three interceptions and nine passes defensed in 13 regular-season games this year.
Joe Cardona, Long Snapper
Local Connection: Played at Navy from 2011-2014
Cardona was Navy's long snapper for four years at Navy -- he was the first freshman to start at long snapper in program history -- and was taken by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. The 6-foot-3, 236-pound Cardona has been the Patriots' long snapper since then. He signed a four-year extension through 2022 last June.
Lawrence Guy, Defensive Lineman
Local Connection: Played for the Ravens from 2014-2016
Guy played 33 games for Baltimore, racking up 91 tackles and 5.5 sacks. He agreed to a four-year deal with New England after the 2016 season. He has started 15 regular-season games each of the past two years for the Patriots, totaling 117 tackles and two sacks.
Albert McClellan, Linebacker
Local Connection: Played for the Ravens from 2011-2018
McClellan was a special teams ace and highly respected locker-room presence for years in Baltimore. He tore an ACL before the 2017 season, which sidelined him for the entire season. He worked his way back in time for training camp in 2018. He was cut Sept. 1 and then re-signed by the Ravens later in the month. He ended up playing in six games for the team before being cut once again. He signed with the Patriots in November, and since he signed in New England he's done what he did for years with the Ravens: make plays on special teams.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen, Sabina Moran, Mitch Stringer/PressBox