Alum Plays in the Super Bowl
Former Southeast Missouri football standout Dan Connolly (2001-04) became the first Southeast player to play in a Super Bowl when his New England Patriots fell to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Connolly was a four-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection as an offensive lineman at Southeast.
Connolly entered the National Football League as an undrafted free agent in 2005, being signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After two years, Connolly was released and picked up by the New England Patriots to fill out the practice squad.
Since then, Connolly has worked his way into the Patriots’ starting lineup as an offensive lineman, a spot he has held for the last three years.
Connolly received a bachelor’s degree in general studies from Southeast, actually finishing up his degree online.
“I was honored and lucky to make Jacksonville’s squad undrafted coming out of Southeast. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and I got released. I thought about possibly finishing up my degree at first,” he says. “The Patriots called. I spent the last five years working as hard as I could to get that role. ”
Connolly says Southeast prepared him for the hard work necessary for his success with the Patriots. “I guess I tribute it to the coaching staff. I had a great coach in (former offensive coordinator) Mike Chavez. He helped prepare me for what was ahead. He expected us to be hard workers, and I think that’s what got me where I am now,” he says. “I wasn’t the best player around when I got signed, but I proved to teams that I could work hard and I got that from my time at Southeast.”
As for all the excitement and activity surrounding the Super Bowl, Connolly says he spent the week prior working just as hard.
“The wait was tough. We tried to focus as much as we could on the game, especially in that first week. We got as much preparation in as we could before the Super Bowl media festivities began. It was very important for us to prepare as much as we could before leaving for Indianapolis,” he says.
In addition to playing in a Super Bowl, one of Connolly’s most memorable plays as a pro was when he fielded a short kickoff and sprinted 71 yards – an NFL record for an offensive lineman – against Green Bay in 2010.
“As an offensive lineman, I usually don’t run more than 10 yards a play. I was pretty winded, but it was exciting,” says Connolly. “I’ve fielded kicks before and picked it up to protect the ball. That was a case where a hole somehow opened up, and I got to run a bit longer than usual.”
New England quarterback Tom Brady adds, “That was the longest kickoff return ever. I’ve never seen anything happen so slow in my life. It was an unbelievable play. They won’t be kicking to him anymore, I can tell you that.”