Former Shore Conf. Stars Vinny Curry and Rick Lovato Among Nine with NJ Ties to Play in Super Bowl LII
With the New England Patriots’ 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game and the Philadelphia Eagles’ 38-7 demolition of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game, Super Bowl LII is set for Sunday, Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
With New Jersey being among the top states in the nation for high school football, it’s no surprise the Garden State will once again be well-represented on one of sport’s biggest stages. Former Shore Conference stars Vinny Curry and Rick Lovato lead a cast of nine players with New Jersey ties that will suit up in the Super Bowl. Curry and Lovato, along with Malcolm Jenkins, Rasul Douglas and Corey Clement will try to help the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship in their third appearance all-time, while Kenny Britt, Devin McCourty, Chris Hogan and Duran Harmon will look to have the Patriots hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the sixth time and third time in the last four seasons in their unprecedented 10th Super Bowl appearance.
Curry was an All-State defensive lineman for Neptune, graduating in 2008. He went on play at Marshall University and had a breakout season as a junior in 2010 with a career-high 12 sacks. As a senior, Curry had 74 tackles, 11 sacks and six forced fumbles and was selected as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. The Eagles selected Curry in the second round, 59th overall, in the 2012 NFL Draft, and he has appeared in 84 games, including starting all 16 games this season. Curry had a breakout season in 2014 with nine sacks and following the 2016 season signed a five-year, $47.5 million dollar contract extension to remain in Philadelphia. This season, Curry has 42 tackles and three sacks with one forced fumble.
Lovato is the Eagles long snapper following standout careers at Middletown South and Old Dominion University. Lovato graduated in 2011 from Middletown South where he was a third-team All-Shore selection and helped the Eagles go 39-6 with three trips to an NJSIAA sectional final. He won the starting job immediately at Old Dominion and was the Monarchs’ long snapper for all 50 games during his career. The Chicago Bears signed Lovato an undrafted free agent following the 2015 NFL Draft but released him just before the season was set to begin.
Lovato then went back to Middletown where he worked at the family business, Joyce’s Subs and Pizza in Lincroft, which is owned by his father and uncle. After a few months of tossing pizzas and making subs, Lovato was signed by the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 22, 2015, after starting long snapper Brett Goode suffered a season-ending knee injury. During a Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals, Lovato became the first Old Dominion alumnus to play in a regular-season NFL game. Lovato was released by the Packers in September of 2016 and spend a brief period with the Washington Redskins before the Eagles signed him in December of 2016 after longtime starter Jon Dorenbos suffered a broken wrist. Lovato then won the starting job from the former All-Pro Dorenbos ahead of the 2017 season and has served as the Eagles long snapper this entire season.
Hogan is a unique case in that he played just one season of college football after a standout lacrosse career. Hogan was a football and lacrosse star for Ramapo High School, garnering All-State honors in both sports as a senior. He decided to accept a scholarship to play lacrosse at Penn State University and played three years of lacrosse for the Nittany Lions before graduating 2010. Hogan still had one year of NCAA eligibility remaining because of an ankle injury that cost him his 2008 lacrosse season, so he ended up enrolling at Monmouth University and suiting up for the Hawks football team. Hogan played both wide receiver and defensive back but posted modest numbers with 12 catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns and 28 tackles and three interceptions on defense. Whatever NFL scouts saw during his one year at Monmouth was enough to open the door to a pro football career.
The San Francisco 49ers signed Hogan as an undrafted free agent in July of 2011, but he was released before the regular season. He was signed to the New York Giants practice squad shortly after but was cut 11 days later. The Miami Dolphins picked up Hogan in December of 2011 but never played in a regular season game and was released in September of 2012.
Hogan finally got his chance when the Buffalo Bills signed him to their practice squad in November of 2012 and promoted him to the active roster in December. The following season, Hogan recorded his first career reception on Oct. 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished the season with 41 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns. In 2015, Hogan played in all 16 games for the Bills and caught 36 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns.
Hogan was a restricted free agent following the 2015 season and the Patriots were able to pry him away from their AFC East rival Bills with a three-year, $12 million offer sheet which Buffalo declined to match. Hogan instantly became a major part of the Patriots’ offense and finished the season with 38 catches for 680 yards and four touchdowns as New England went on to win Super Bowl LI over the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28 in overtime. Hogan has a big postseason with 17 catches for 332 yards and two touchdowns, including a Patriots playoff record 180 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC Championship win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hogan started this season on fire with 33 receptions for 438 yards and five touchdowns over the first eight weeks. A shoulder injury on Oct. 29 derailed Hogan’s season, however, and he missed seven of the remaining eight regular season games. He returned to action in a divisional playoff win over the Titans and has three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games this year.
Jenkins starred at Piscataway High School and helped the Chiefs win three consecutive NJSIAA sectional titles from 2002 to 2004. He was also a state track and field champion in the 400 meters. Jenkins was a four-year letterman at Ohio State University where he started 45 career games and totaled 196 tackles and 11 interceptions with two defensive touchdowns, three blocked punts and four forced fumbles. He was a three-time All-Big Ten honoree.
The New Orleans Saints selected Jenkins with the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and in his first season he helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17, over the Indianapolis Colts for the franchise's first Super Bowl title. Jenkins spent five seasons with the Sants before signing a three-year contract with the Eagles in March of 2014. Jenkins has been one of the top all-around defensive backs in the NFL during his nine-year career. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2015, 2017) and was named second-team All-Pro in 2010. For his career, Jenkins has 695 tackles, 16 interceptions, 80 pass deflections, 12 forced fumbles, 6.5 sacks and seven defensive touchdowns. His six interception returns for touchdowns since 2009 is tied for the third-most in the NFL.
Britt was an All-State wide receiver at Bayonne High School and signed with Rutgers University as a four-star recruit. Britt was a three-year starter for the Scarlet Knights with 178 receptions for 3,043 yards and 17 touchdowns and elected to forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. In 2007, Britt led all Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) sophomores with 1,232 yards while making 62 receptions and scoring eight touchdowns. As a junior, Britt was a First Team All-Big East selection and an Associated Press Third Team All-America pick.
The Tennessee Titans took Britt with the 30th pick of the first round in the 2009 NFL Draft. Britt spent five seasons with the Titans where he caught 157 passes for 2,450 yards and 19 touchdowns. The St. Louis Rams signed Britt to a one-year deal in 2014 and in 2015 re-signed him to a two-year contract. In 2016 Britt had a career year with 68 receptions for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. Britt then signed a four-year, $32.5 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in March of 2017, but was released after just nine games. Five days later on December 13, the New England Patriots signed Britt to a two-year deal. Despite seeing very limited action since going to the Patriots, Britt now has an opportunity to win a Super Bowl ring.
McCourty is from Nyack, New York but played his high school football at St. Joseph Regional in Montvale and had a standout career at Rutgers University. The 30-year old McCourty was selected by New England with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and has spent his entire eight-year career with the Patriots, winning two Super Bowl titles and being selected to the Pro Bowl twice. McCourty was a First Team All-Big East selection at safety as a senior and finished his career with 149 tackles and six interceptions. He started all 16 games for the Patriots as a rookie and has compiled 535 tackles, 19 interceptions and eight forced fumbles throughout his career.
McCourty’s twin brother, Jason McCourty, also played for Rutgers and has played in the NFL for the Titans and Browns. The McCourty brothers are one of just 12 sets of twins in NFL history.
A rookie this season, Clement is a product of Glassboro High School deep in the heart of Eagles territory in South Jersey. He had an outstanding scholastic career at running back with 6,245 yards rushing, 34 rushing touchdowns and 90 total touchdowns. Clement went on to play for the University of Wisconsin where he was a member of the winningest class in program history and rushed for 3,092 yards and 36 touchdowns. The Eagles signed Clement as an undrafted free agent during the 2017 offseason and he has turned into a valuable all-around player for the NFC champions. Clement rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns and added two receiving touchdowns during the regular season, ranking him sixth among NFL rookies in total touchdowns this season. His six touchdowns are also the third-most for an Eagles rookie running back and the most since Don Johnson's seven touchdowns in 1953. He is also tied for second on the team in special teams tackles with 10.
Also a rookie for the Eagles, Douglas, a cornerback, starred at East Orange High School and then at West Virginia University after starting his college career at Nassau Community College. In his two years at WVU, Douglas made 78 tackles with nine interceptions and two forced fumbles in 24 games for the Mountaineers, including leading the NCAA with eight INTs as a senior. The Eagles selected Douglas in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has played in 14 games with five starts this season, registering 39 tackles, two interceptions and 14 pass deflections.
Harmon is a native of Delaware and played his high school football at Caesar Rodney High School before continuing his career at Rutgers University. He had 49 tackles and five interceptions as a junior and was a First Team All-Big East safety as a senior in 2012. The Patriots drafted Harmon in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, having helped the Patriots defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX and the Atlanta Falcons last season. Despite playing primarily as the Patriots’ third safety behind McCourty and Patrick Chung, Harmon has four interceptions this season.
While Hogan won a Super Bowl title with the Patriots last season, the most recent Shore Conference alumnus to win a Super Bowl ring was Wall’s Tim Wright, a former Rutgers standout who was a tight end for the Patriots on their 2015 championship team.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.