How Does NJ Connect to Super Bowl Participants? [POLL/AUDIO]
While this weekend's Super Bowl is the first to ever be held in New Jersey, it is a return home for many involved in the game.
The Denver Broncos offer no shortages of New Jersey connections to the big game.
Before Knowshon Moreno started at running back behind Peyton Manning, he was shattering records at Middletown South High School. Moreno led the Eagles to three consecutive state titles, helping the team to a 36-0 record during his three seasons there.
Now, the Belford native gets the opportunity to play in front of family and friends, just 40 miles from where he grew up.
"It's awesome. It's awesome that I get to see my family, get to see some friends, coaches. So that's awesome that they're so close and get to come to the game," Moreno said.
In fact, this week, he was able to spend some time with his high school coach, Steve Antonucci.
"He means a lot. I almost thought about quitting football, not playing football. He taught me to just stay consistent, working hard to get better each day, so he means a lot. He's like a family member to me; he's like a dad to me," the running back said.
Antonucci said that the two remain in regular communication, despite the obvious distance between Denver and New Jersey. He offered a glimpse into what Moreno was like during his time at Middletown South.
"Behind the scenes, he was never selfish, always caring about other people, humble. The ultimate teammate," the coach said.
On the defensive side of the ball for Denver, several members of the squad boast a Jersey link.
Safety Mike Adams made national headlines after the AFC Championship game by declaring that he planned to walk right from MetLife Stadium to his hometown of Paterson, if the Broncos won the game.
This week, Adams has not fully stuck to the commitment of the 9-mile trek down several bustling highways in the freezing cold.
"Excitement after beating the Patriots. I was just thinking, if I go to the Super Bowl, I'm walking home. I'm keeping my equipment on and I'm walking home. That's how it started. It seems like I have to prove you guys right, huh?"
However, Adams did return to Paterson for a pep rally on Tuesday night. The safety led Paterson Tech to a high school state title in 1998, and returning home this week has meant a lot to him.
"Oh yeah. I'm from here. I live here. This is me. This is my domain. I have a lot of people that will be rooting for me. I have a lot of people rooting for me at Giants' Stadium, so it will be fun," Adams explained.
Robert Ayers is back home, literally. The defensive end was born in Jersey City, where the team hotels are located this week. Ayers attended school in the area until his freshman year, when he moved to South Carolina.
The Jersey City native returned to his old grammar school, Sacred Heart School, on Tuesday to give out winter coats and remember his old stomping grounds.
"I'm from this area, so it means that much more to me," Ayers said. "It's a great thing and it's a blessing."
Adams and Ayers were unable to fully meet the ticket crunch, so the teammates coordinated a party for family and friends unable to attend the game at a Hackensack restaurant.
Shaun Phillips, a linebacker and defensive end for the Broncos, is another defensive player back in his homestate. Phillips was a star at Willingboro High School, where he moved when he was 14-years-old.
Both Super Bowl coaches also have fond memories of the Garden State, where they once honed their craft and lived for several years.
Broncos coach John Fox was the defensive coordinator for the Giants from 1997 through 2001. Fox is no stranger to his home for this week in North Jersey, since he lived for several years in Wayne.
"I spent five years here. I went to dinner with an ex-neighbor from Wayne, New Jersey, just the other night, so it's good to get reunited with some really good people," Fox said.
He admitted it would mean a tremendous amount to win in New Jersey.
On the other sideline, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll lived in New Jersey during his stint as a Jets coach from 1990-94. Carroll was the head coach for Gang Green for just the 1994 season, fired after finishing 6-10.
"I'm proud to come back here and coach in a game like this, this status, in a place we once lived and worked. It's a special honor to do that," Carroll said.
These Jersey ties will surely add to the already fever-pitched emotion levels for the players and coaches as game time draws closer.