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What to watch: Bulls in the NFL playoffs

Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 00:01


Though the games between the final eight teams in the NFL playoffs kick off this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. when the Baltimore Ravens take on the Denver Broncos, Bulls fans will have to wait until Sunday to see two former alumni battle in their respective divisions for a shot at the Lombardi trophy. 

This Sunday, former Bulls linebacker Stephen Nicholas who is now a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons will go head-to-head with the Seattle Seahawks, a fan favorite in this year’s playoffs. 

Nicholas, who was dubbed USF Rookie of the Year in 2003 and found himself as a freshman All-American and USA All-Freshman, had much success early in his career as a Bull. He continued his success in 2004 when he came in second on the Bulls roster with
97 tackles, and in 2005 he was named USF’s defensive playmaker of the year while earning all Big East honors.

Now in his sixth season as an Atlanta Falcon, drafted in 2007, Nicholas is having his best season yet in the NFL.

Similar to his USF days, Nicholas recorded 97 tackles this season — a career high, eclipsing his 80 tackles in 2009. He also set a personal best in solo tackles this year with 72. 

Later on Sunday, the New England Patriots will face the Houston Texans, a team which former USF player and nose tackle Terrell McClain now plays for.

McClain, who was originally drafted by the North Carolina Panthers in 2011 and signed on with the New England Patriots last year before being waved, quietly started out his collegiate career in 2007 as a defensive tackle, recording only eight tackles and four for a loss. 

The next year, McClain recorded 32 tackles — his best at USF along with his three sacks. From there, he consistently put up solid
numbers with 25 tackles in 2009 and 24 in 2010. In 2010, his last year as a Bull, McClain was tabbed asfirst-team All-Big East and was part of a win over Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

While in Carolina, McClain put up 19 tackles with a sack in his 12 games, and then went to play for the Patriots where he only started one game. With the Texans, McClain has only started in three games and comes in third on the depth chart. 

If the Falcons or the Texans win the Super Bowl, it would be the second year in a row that a former USF player can sport a Super
Bowl ring.

Last year when the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, former Bulls Jason Pierre-Paul — who played a pivotal role in the
Giants defensive line — and linebacker Jacquian Williams let Bulls fans get their dose of victory outside the collegiate level.

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