The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Ravens’ Smith aspires to join local Super Bowl club
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
As a three-time Pro Bowl kick returner for the Washington Redskins, Mike Nelms appeared in 68 games in his five-year career.
Before every contest Nelms would become overwhelmed by nervousness.
“But as soon as the game started,” Nelms said, “I was loving it.”
That wasn’t the case when the Redskins faced the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII at the end of the 1982 season. The usual nerves were there. But they never left.
“It shocked me to death,” said Nelms, who has lived in Spotsylvania County since 1995. “I got in that thing and the 20th play felt like the first play, and the 100th play felt like the first play. I never lost the nervousness and I just had to play through it.”
The Redskins went on to win the game 27–17 and Nelms had a productive day. He’s one of three former or current NFL standouts with ties to the Fredericksburg area who have earned Super Bowl rings.
Colonial Beach native and Stafford High School graduate Torrey Smith will attempt to become the fourth tonight when his Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
Smith wants to duplicate what Nelms, Fredericksburg native George Coghill and King George’s Jermon Bushrod have already done.
“I need to join the club,” said Smith, a second-year wide receiver.
Coghill was a backup safety and special teams ace for the Denver Broncos when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.
He was on the practice squad the year prior when the Broncos earned the first championship in their franchise’s history.
Coghill said his “15 minutes of fame” came when he made the first and last tackles of the win over the Falcons.
He said what he remembers most from the experience is the large media presence, glancing through the crowd at celebrities in attendance and the flashbulbs going off at kickoff.
“It’s like what you see on TV, but when you’re out there it’s 10 times brighter,” said Coghill, who is now an assistant football coach at Mountain View High School in Stafford County. “After the kickoff, it was just a regular game.”
Bushrod still plays for the New Orleans Saints. He was the starting left tackle when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV three years ago.
He said the camaraderie established with his teammates as they pursued a common goal is his fondest memory. He paraded around Sun Life Stadium in Miami carrying a King George County flag after the game ended.
“Besides the birth of my son,” Bushrod said, “it’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Smith said Bushrod was one of the first people to send him a text message after the Ravens defeated the New England Patriots on Jan. 20 to earn their franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl. Bushrod told Smith, “Go get one.”
Coghill said he sent Smith a message on Smith’s Facebook fan page offering encouragement. The Ravens defeated the Broncos in the AFC Divisional playoffs, and Coghill immediately began supporting Smith.
“Once they beat my boys, I started pulling for them for that reason and for that reason only,” Coghill said of Smith being from the area.
Coghill said his advice to Smith tonight would be to “savor the moment.” He said after earning Super Bowl rings his first two seasons in the NFL he thought it was easy, but he never made it back in three future seasons.
“I was telling people, ‘I’ll get you a ticket to the Super Bowl next year,’” Coghill said. “But John Elway retired and Terrell Davis had a knee injury and we never made it back.”
Nelms and the Redskins returned to the Super Bowl at the end of the ’83 season, but he didn’t play in the defeat to the Los Angeles Raiders because of an injury he sustained in the playoffs. He said he opted not to play because he was only “70 percent” healthy.
He also said the bright lights of the ’82 game “did a number on me that I never anticipated.”
“I thought that’s why a lot of people make it to the Super Bowl and they don’t perform that well there,” Nelms said. “I talked to some other guys and they had the same experience.”
Bushrod handled the stage just fine. He allowed just one quarterback sack, even though he was faced with the task of slowing down Colts’ All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Although tonight’s game will be played in his home stadium, Bushrod doesn’t plan to attend. He aims to make it back to the game again, though, perhaps with Smith on the other sideline.
“I’m going to text him and tell him to enjoy the journey because at the end of the day the game is great, especially if you win,” Bushrod said. “But the thing you’ll remember most is the journey and the grind of getting there.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526