NORFOLK – The chase for Super Bowl LVII kicked off this past weekend, featuring the NFL’s super wild card championship six games over three days.
Fourteen alumni of local college football teams have been on various NFL rosters this year, but only five have had the opportunity to appear in the playoffs.
Athletes who played for Old Dominion, Norfolk State, William & Mary, and Hampton Roads represented the league this season, but only those from the Monarchs and Spartans made the 45-man playoff slate.
Old Dominion advanced four former players into the playoffs this year, and Norfolk State had one.
After the first match slate, the cast dwindled down to four.
Here’s a look at who appeared in the NFL playoffs, and how they played this year:
Zach Pascal, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia: Pascal has played in 17 games this season, his fifth overall in the league and his first with the Eagles.
He started two games, but was usually a rotational piece for coach Nick Siriani. Pascal is currently sitting with the second string on the depth chart, according to ESPN.
The 28-year-old has been targeted 19 times this season and brought in 15 catches for 150 yards and 1 touchdown.
Paschal’s best performance came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8, when he caught two passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Rick Lovato, Long Snapper, Philadelphia: Lovato and Pascal crossed paths at Old Dominion between 2012-2014 and are now teammates again at the professional level.
Like Pascal, Lovato has played 17 games this season. The long snapper recorded 139 special teams snaps, the second-most of his nearly decade-long career.
Lovato even ran into three tackles.
Oshane Ximines, Edge Pusher, New York Giants: Old Dominion’s first draft pick is currently in his fourth year in pro ball.
Ximines has played in 15 games this season, missing a few weeks with a quadruple injury. However, he did start four games for the Giants – most of his young career.
Ximines totaled 24 tackles, one of his career highs of 25 that he set during his rookie year.
Of his 24 tackles, 14 of them were solo, which is a career high. The New York native also had a forced fumble, two sacks, and two pass deflections.
He did not play in the upset of the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Stone Smartt, Narrow Tip, Los Angeles Chargers: The Smart Football journey has been interesting, to say the least.
He played junior college quarterback at California before starting seven games under the Kings in 2019. In 2021, he found himself at wide receiver, playing eight games there.
Now with the Chargers, Smartt is listed as a tight end.
Smart has played in seven games this season for the Bullets. Although he is currently listed as the fourth quarterback according to ESPN’s depth chart, he started during the Chargers’ Week 13 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
He has been targeted five times this season and brought in four catches for 17 yards and a touchdown.
Smart did not see the field during Los Angeles’ loss to the Jaguars.
Deshan Dixon, Defensive End, Jacksonville: Dixon played his high school ball for Western Branch in the Chesapeake before turning out to be an All-MEAC representative with Norfolk State.
After making the 53-man roster with the Jaguars before the season began, the rookie has seen playing time in three games this season.
The bulk of his sparse playing time came on special teams, and he tallied one tackle.
Dixon is currently listed as the Jaguars’ second-string “Will” linebacker, but was listed as inactive for the Jaguars’ victory over the Chargers.
Rashad Kord, Arizona
Travis Fulgham, WR, Green Bay (Development Team)
Taylor Hynecke, QB, Washington
Rick Lovato, LS, Philadelphia
Zach Pascal, WR, Philadelphia
Stone Smart Chargers, TE, Los Angeles
Tim Ward, DE, Green Bay (Development Team)
Oshane Ximines, EDGE, NY Giants
Deshan Dixon, DE, Jacksonville
Bobby Price, DB, Detroit
William and Mary
Bill Murray, DT, New England (Development Team)
DeAndre Houston Carson, FS, Chicago
Luke Rhodes, LS, Indianapolis
Andrew Turner, OT, LA Chargers (injured reserve)
Players who grew up in the area
Andrew Brown, DL, Chicago (Oscar Smith, UVA)
Trenton Cannon, RB, Tennessee (Keikotan, Virginia)
Cole Christiansen, LB, Kansas City (Nansemond Suffolk Academy, Army; Development Squad)
Chuck Clark, Baltimore (Kings Fork, Virginia Tech)
Jalen Holmes, DT, Chicago (Lake Taylor, OH)
Patrick Jones, OLB, Minnesota (Gracefield, Pittsburgh)
Daz Newsom, WR, San Francisco (Hampton High, North Carolina, development team)
Derek Club, DT, Kansas City (Ocean Lakes, Florida)
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland (Bethel, Notre Dame; at Wounded Reserve)
Josh Sweet, DL, Philadelphia (Oscar Smith, FL)
Tyrod Taylor, QB, NY Giants (Hampton High, Virginia Tech)
Dietrich Wise, D, New England (Suffolk native)