Two former Fayetteville Bulldogs and Arkansas Razorbacks will be on the sporting world’s biggest stage Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.
The Chiefs (14-6) are the NFL franchise nearest to Fayetteville by distance, but more than a few locals will be cheering for Frisco (14-5) because of star linebacker Dre Greenlaw and reserve quarterback Brandon Allen.
Broadcast of the game begins at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS.
Both starred for the Bulldogs and Hogs before taking their talents to the NFL. Allen and Greenlaw’s tenure with the Razorbacks overlapped for a single season in 2015.
That Razorback squad is one of the best in recent memory, finishing the season 8-5 with a 45-23 Liberty Bowl victory over Kansas State.
Allen, the son of now retired longtime UA assistant coach and staffer Bobby Allen, had a record-breaking year for the Razorbacks that season. He threw for a school-record 7 touchdowns in a 51-50 loss to Dak Prescott’s Mississippi State squad.
Allen threw for 3,440 yards and 30 touchdowns that season and finished his career with 7,463 yards passing and 64 touchdowns. He is Arkansas’ fourth all-time leader in passing yardage behind K.J. Jefferson, Tyler Wilson, and Ryan Mallett. He was a sixth-round pick by Jacksonville in 2016.
Allen likely won’t see the field Saturday as a 49ers’ backup to starting quarterback Brock Purdy, but Greenlaw is expected to play a pivotal role in the 49ers’ defensive efforts as he has all season.
Greenlaw, the adopted son of former Fayetteville High assistant coach and current Missouri assistant Brian Early, has developed into a bonafide NFL star in his fourth year with San Francisco.
His two interceptions against Green Bay helped seal a 24-21 victory in the second round of the playoffs, and he played just as well a week later in the NFC Championship Game in which San Francisco topped Detroit, 34-31.
Greenlaw was a standout linebacker for the Hogs during a tough period. After going 8-5 his freshman season, the Hogs fell to 7-6 in 2016, 4-8 in 2017, and 2-10 in 2018.
Despite the Razorbacks’ struggles, Greenlaw played well enough to be a fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft and quickly made an impact with the 49ers, who went to the Super Bowl in his rookie year. Greenlaw has steadily improved to become one of the better linebackers in the NFL.
Greenlaw’s story is an inspiring one. He grew up in a local children’s home before being fostered by the Early family when he was in junior high.
As a fan with no particular allegiance to any NFL franchise, I’ve enjoyed watching the Chiefs and 49ers succeed this season, but Sunday I will be rooting for the 49ers because of Greenlaw and Allen.
It’s fun to see former Bulldogs and Razorbacks achieve success at football’s pinnacle.