In 2009, two very special talents were recruited by the South Carolina Gamecocks. One offensive standout and a high school quarterback who would later show his prowess on defense, The duo both starred in their first season, garnering Freshman All-American honors and combining for three first-team All-SEC selections over the next two years. Roommates, friends, teammates. None of that matters now…because they will go head-to-head on the biggest stage of all; Super Bowl 52.
The players in question are Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The two won’t just square -off, but Jeffery will likely be shadowed by the Pro Bowl corner. A matchup that highlights an elite cornerback facing off against a dominant number one receiver also carries a much deeper level.
Alshon Jeffery was a groomsman at the wedding of the corner who joined the Patriots following a career-high five interceptions in 2016. For Gilmore, it’s simply another day at the office. This will be the first Super Bowl appearance of his career and it comes in the first year of the five he’s contracted for with the Patriots. Gilmore has carried on his dominance in 2016 and was no stranger to the limelight.
In the AFC Championship game, Gilmore made the most memorable play of his career in the most clutch moment imaginable. Clinching New England the AFC Championship on a 4th down attempt by the Jaguars.
Stephon Gilmore earns his entire contract in one play pic.twitter.com/WlfS1E3DUI
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 21, 2018
Jeffery has also been at the top of his game this season, his first with the Eagles. Both players started new adventures in 2017 and it’s safe to say both have been beyond successful. Jeffery caught fire late in the season, going through a stint where he caught seven touchdowns in eight games. In the playoffs, the former Chicago Bear has been just as impressive. With 146 yards to his postseason career in Philadelphia so far and two touchdowns. Averaging over 16 yards per reception, Jeffery has been a hot target for Nick Foles, with their chemistry growing each and every week.
The 6’3 wide receiver caught touchdown passes of 53 and 5 yards to give extend the Eagles lead over Minnesota in the dominant NFC Championship win. In doing so, Jeffery became the fifth Eagle to record multiple receiving TDs in a playoff game, joining Brent Celek, Chad Lewis, Fred Barnet and Harold Carmichael.
It’s safe to say that both players are coming into this game playing the form of their life, but in a man-to-man matchup that’s going to test both players like never before, with a worldwide audience of millions waiting for a magical moment that will last a lifetime, who will come out on top?
The stage is set. Two players at the top of their game. Two former teammates who watched each other climb the ladder with the vision of entering the Hall of Fame.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports