3 former Jackets playing for Super Bowl spots

Georgia Tech will have at least one representative in the Super Bowl and possibly two.

There are three former Yellow Jackets on rosters in this Sunday’s AFC and NFC conference championship games – Packers safety Morgan Burnett, Patriots guard Shaquille Mason and Falcons linebacker Philip Wheeler. With the Falcons and Packers playing for the NFC championship, Tech is guaranteed to have a former player on a Super Bowl roster for the 44th time overall and the ninth time in the past 10 years.

Last year, former Jackets Demaryius Thomas and Vance Walker helped the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl championship, while former Tech cornerback Louis Young was on the roster for the Carolina Panthers.

Mason has started 15 of 16 games during the regular season for the Patriots and has become more adept at pass protection to match his run blocking prowess, which helped the Patriots finish seventh in the NFL in rushing yards. Burnett’s availability for Sunday’s game is unclear. Burnett, in his seventh season with the Packers with 90 career starts to his credit, left Green Bay’s divisional round win over Dallas with a quadriceps injury.

Wheeler has played about 30 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps this season, according to footballoutsiders.com, and has played a significant role on special teams. He has started four games this season and has 28 combined tackles. Wheeler is in his ninth season in the league.

Wheeler and Burnett have both reached the Super Bowl, Wheeler was a starter at linebacker for the Colts against the Saints in the 2010 Super Bowl and Burnett was on the roster a year later in his rookie season, although Burnett was out with a torn ACL. The Packers defeated the Steelers in Green Bay’s most recent appearance.

There are others involved in the two games who have Tech ties. Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith was an assistant coach at Tech 1987-94 and, in fact, was the area recruiter assigned to Joe Hamilton. Former Tech linebacker James Liipfert is in his eighth season with the Patriots as a scout, his second as a national scout. Falcons video director Mike Crews is also a Tech graduate. Falcons play-by-play voice Wes Durham is a member of the Tech athletics hall of fame.