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Column: The road to Super Bowl 47 goes through ... Hancock Co.?

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Rachel Houck posted an interesting tweet the other day. The Mt. Vernon senior basketball and softball star posted:

“Jim Harbaugh asked my mom on a date back in the day but she turned him down #awkward”

Houck went on to explain that her aunt is married to former Chicago Bears tight end Cap Boso, who, naturally, was once teammates with former Bears quarterback and current head coach of the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh.

No word on why Rachel’s mom turned him down, but apparently Captain Comeback was unable to rally from the rejection, at least with the future Mrs. Houck, who has been married to Mr. Houck for many happy years now. 

Who knows, if Rachel’s mom had gone on the date and it led to something, maybe Harbaugh, a future QB for the Indianapolis Colts, at some point takes a different path in his playing or coaching career. So, there you have it, Rachel Houck’s mom changed the face of the NFL, and, given the current popularity of the league, humanity, forever.

Keeping with the Super Bowl XLVII theme, here are 46 other ways this year’s big game, featuring the 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, is connected to Hancock County. And by connected, I mean by the most tenuous means necessary. (It’s not going to be easy to get all the way to 47).

Here we go. Connection number....

2: Mt. Vernon football coach Doug Armstrong was an assistant coach at Cathedral. Among his players was current New York Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. The Giants beat the 49ers this season — 26-3 in Week 6 — and lost to the Ravens 33-14 in Week 16.

3: Staying with the MV-NY theme, Eric Moore earned a Super Bowl XXV (25) ring as the starting right guard for the Giants in their 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills following the 1990 season. Moore is the dad of current Mt. Vernon junior basketball player Erica Moore. On the coaching staff of those Giants was Bill Belichick, the current coach of the New England Patriots, who lost to Baltimore Sunday in the AFC championship. Also, Eric Moore is a successful franchise owner for McDonald’s and he operates franchises in central Indiana, including restaurants in Hancock County. Every time you eat a hamburger from the Golden Arches, you’re tasting Super Bowl greatness. (We’re only on connection No. 3 and I’ve already gone way over the top.)

4: Greg Werner is another Mt. Vernon dad with NFL experience. Werner, father of MV basketball sophomore Dan Werner, didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but he did see regular season action in 10 games, including four starts, with the New York Jets in 1989. His first career reception, from QB Ken O’Brien, came Nov. 5, 1989, in a 27-26 win over the Patriots, this year’s aforementioned AFC Championship runner-ups. You can never have enough “Patriots lose” mentions.

5-6: Baltimore is coached by John Harbaugh, brother of dating loser Jim. In honor of the brothers, we asked our Twitter followers who they thought was the most successful brother tandem in Hancock County athletic history. Among the first suggestions was the Turners — Stephen and Daniel of current/former MV basketball fame. I’m counting each sibling as a separate Super Bowl connection. Hey, I warned you I would be stretching things. The other brother (and some sister-bro) tandem suggestions that came up in the Twittersphere:

7-8: The Ulreys — Chris, Kyle and Nick, New Palestine MLB baseball draftee (Chris), state wrestling champ (Kyle) and current baseball/wrestling standout (Nick).

9-10: The Clarks — Reid and Brian, recent New Palestine tennis/baseball/basketball graduates and all-around swell guys.

11-12: The Whitakers — Kelli and Wade, a former New Pal volleyball stud (Kelli) and basketball sectional champ (Wade).

13-14: The Naparius — Sonya and Joe, each Dragon earned all-state track and field honors twice.

15-16: The Wiggins — Brandon and Justin, a former Daily Reporter Defensive Player of the Year for football (Brandon) and current wide receiver/defensive back for the Dragons (Justin). “Hands down” the best brother combo, Brandon tweeted. Have you noticed New Palestine is very big on the Twitter?

17-18: The Werners — the aforementioned Dan and his older sis, Ellen, a former regional qualifying golfer for the Marauders.

19-20: The Wrights — Daniel and Sam, another pair of New Palestine football smashers. “We tend to get work done,” is how Daniel put it.

21-22: The Penleys — Josh and Nate, another duo in the long line of New Palestine multi-sports stars. “We tend to get things done,” Josh said, following Dan Wright’s tweet.

23-24: The Bobbs — Ben and Bryce, dynamic doubles pairing for the Mt. Vernon tennis team.

25-26: The Bragdons — Eastern Hancock’s first submission, Brett and Coty. Brett helped the 2006 EH football team win a sectional title, while Coty was a sophomore on the Royals’ regional-championship 2002-03 basketball squad. Brett proclaimed: “Numbers don’t lie!”

27-28: The Colemans — CJ and Olivia, of current Mt. Vernon basketball and soccer fame.

29-30: There were no suggestions for fearsome Greenfield-Central siblings, so I’ll add a couple. The Conleys — Derek and Jordan, brothers who starred in multiple sports, Jordan was an all-state punter and Derek is the basketball team’s leading scorer this season.

31-32: I’ll also add Jake and Zach Fox, Greenfield natives. Jake, who attended Cathedral, has played in the major leagues for the Cubs, A’s and Orioles. Back to the non-brother connections:

33: Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl 46, where the Patriots lost (hooray). Indianapolis is also home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Greenfield’s Mark Dismore competed in seven Indy 500s. It was fun meeting Dismore for a story we published earlier this week. Love the behind-the-scenes racing stories. Dismore, by the way, is not a huge Scott Sharp fan.

34: Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean is brother-in-law to the Harbaugh brothers. Crean’s point guard is Yogi Ferrell, whose hometown is listed as Greenfield, Ind., in several online sports profiles. Members of Ferrell’s immediate family have lived in the area, and he spent time here growing up, although he went to elementary school in Warren Township and to high school at Park Tudor in Indy.

35: Before the Ravens, Baltimore’s NFL team was the Colts, who were owned by Bob Irsay, father of current Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who is the only NFL owner with a Twitter account. Irsay loves to post trivia contests online, usually handing out cash or tickets as prizes. Former New Palestine wide receiver record holder Brandon Collins recently won several hundred dollars in an Irsay contest.

36: Perhaps the greatest professional athlete to come out of Hancock County is Todd Yoder, a New Palestine graduate who went on to star at Vanderbilt, then spent 10 seasons in the NFL as a tight end with Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Washington.  Yoder won a ring with the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII (37) following the 2002 season when they defeated the Raiders 48-21. Rod Woodson was a defensive back on that Raiders team; the previous four seasons, Woodson played for the Ravens, who won Super Bowl XXXV (35) after the 2000 season in what was their last championship appearance before this season.

37: New Palestine’s recently-hired head football coach is Kyle Ralph, a former All-ACC offensive lineman at North Carolina. Ralph and Baltimore linebacker Ricky Brown (currently on the injured reserve list) are Cincinnati-area natives. “He is one of my great friends, growing up (together) and we were high school rivals,” Ralph said.

38: Using another Ralph connection (we’re still a ways off from 47), among the many future NFL stars he played against at North Carolina was current Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs, who went to Arizona State. In 2002, Suggs’ final season at ASU, Ralph’s Tar Heels defeated the Sun Devils 38-35.

39: Mining the Ralph file one last time, the six-foot-4 former lineman spent NFL training camp in 2006 with the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers. Deion Branch was a wide receiver for the ’06 Seahawks. Branch played this season for the Patriots, who, and I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, lost to the Ravens in the AFC championship.

40-47: Whew, we’re running out of gas. Eight connections short of a full 47. Might have to call in some extra research help. My good friend, Lennay Kekua, former fling of Manti Te’o, tells me she’s a Hancock County historian. I’ll let her fill in the final eight connections. Take it away, Lennay…

Brian Harmon is a sports editor for the Daily Reporter. Contact him at (317) 477-3227 or at bharmon@greenfieldreporter.com.

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