When it comes to the Super Bowl, John Kuhn can say he already has a ring.
As a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad during the 2005 season, the Shippensburg University alum went along for the ride as the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10.
"I've seen the ring and held it, it's real," said former Shippensburg linebacker Dan Walsh. "I think winning a ring this year would mean a lot more to him, because he's more involved."
Kuhn, 28, now an impact player on the Green Bay Packers and deemed a "folk hero" by the national media, is just three wins away from a second championship.
But one of the challenges the running back and the Packers will have to overcome when they travel to the Georgia Dome to play the Atlanta Falcons tonight in an NFC divisional playoff game is former Shippensburg University teammate Brent Grimes.
Grimes, 27, a starting cornerback for the Falcons, ranks among the league leaders in passes defended (23) and interceptions (5). Grimes is no stranger to championships himself. In 2007, Grimes was sent by the Falcons to the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europa. He made the most of his time there, as his team defeated the Frankfurt Galaxy to win World Bowl XV.
Ever since then, the uber-athletic Grimes has been with the Falcons and has been getting better each season.
One thing is certain when Kuhn and Grimes clash tonight, perhaps literally: Only one Ship U. player will advance to the NFC Championship game this year and perhaps the Super Bowl.
Another sure thing: TV ratings for the game will be sky-high in Shippensburg and the surrounding Central Pa. area.
Former Shippensburg players are talking about and will be watching tonight's game.
"We're going to get together Saturday night in Harrisburg with some of the Ship guys," said Walsh, who is traveling from the New York City area to watch the game in Pa.
Former Ship linebacker Bill Morrison will be among those watching the game with Walsh. He will do that, of course, after he's finished watching the Steelers game.
"I'm going to watch the Steelers game by myself so I can concentrate," Morrison said with a laugh. "After that, I plan to get together with Walsh and a few guys in the area."
In conversations with The Sentinel, every player who was interviewed had a story to tell about Kuhn and Grimes, not to mention a prediction for tonight's game.
One of Division II's best
Morrison can remember one particular film session when he was a young player on the defensive side of the ball for Shippensburg University.
The team was watching film of that day's practice until assistant coach Mike Burket, disgusted with what he saw from the defensive unit, clicked the stop button.
"He looked at the older guys and said, ‘What's wrong with you guys? You're making John Kuhn look like an All-American,'" Morrison said. "They all looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘Coach, he is an All-American.'"
Kuhn was, in fact, a three-time All-American for Shippensburg, piling up nearly 5,000 yards and more than 50 touchdowns in his illustrious college career.
In his senior year, Kuhn was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the top player in NCAA Division II.
Morrison was asked how a player, perhaps Grimes, should go about tackling Kuhn, a 250-pound beast.
"If he hasn't already run you over, just try to hold on," Morrison said. "You can try to take him low, but John's been known to hurdle people."
Another Ship U. teammate, Frank Duffy, called Kuhn "a man among boys" when he was on the college circuit.
"My most memorable moment was trying to tackle him at practice," Duffy said. "He could single-handedly take over a game with his running ability."
Taking over a game is what Kuhn did frequently in college, rolling for more than 100 yards in 26 different games.
Chris Leavenworth, a former offensive lineman for the Raiders, takes a lot of pride in knowing he helped Kuhn get some of those yards.
"Every offensive lineman wants to run the ball, and when you have a guy behind you like that, it makes you look good," Leavenworth said. "We were a bunch of blue-collar guys, and Kuhn was just like everyone else, plus he was smarter than the rest of us to boot. He was a good guy, never above any of us. He was one of the guys, and that showed."
The most athletic
Former Shippensburg University cornerback Antonio Williams proved himself to be an all-conference player in his time at Shippensburg.
Ironically, Williams was the player frequently targeted by the opposing team's passing offense. That was because his roommate, Grimes, was on the other side of the field.
"I had a lot of passes thrown my way, and that's not a knock on myself," Williams said. "The plays he made in the secondary ... there's some balls I don't know how he got to them, but he somehow did."
Grimes was described by everyone interviewed as the "most athletic" player on the team, and there are plenty of anecdotes floating around about his athletic feats. On and off the field.
"That guy could do a windmill 360 dunk," Williams said.
Others said they have seen Grimes do a standing broad jump over a car.
"I remember one night, we were hanging out, and he jumped over a car," Leavenworth said. "As I was watching him leap over, I remember thinking, ‘Holy hell, he just jumped over a car.'"
Morrison elaborated on Grimes' legendary leap.
"It was a Mazda Protege, and he jumped over it long-ways," Morrison said. "His vertical was second to none. I played with him in intramural basketball, and I was unfortunately the recipient of a few of his dunks."
Listed generously at 5 feet 10 by the Atlanta Falcons, Grimes has used every bit of his athletic ability to make up for what he gives up in the height department.
Leavenworth summed up how NFL offenses approach Grimes.
"If I saw him, I'd take my shots," Leavenworth began, "but then after making that mistake once, I'd look to the other side of the field. Brent is such a playmaker."
Williams has moved on from his football days to start his own athletic training program, Next Level Athletic Fitness. He is hoping to showcase Grimes for his new operation, based in Pittsburgh.
"I'm trying to get in contact with him to get him to go to Pittsburgh to help out," Williams said. "Brent's exceeded everyone's expectations, except for maybe his own. I think he's going to go a lot further and do more. I'm looking forward to him going further and advancing his career."