After two impressive championship games last weekend, several already stand-out players helped their teams clinch a place in Super Bowl LIV — from season favorites like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, to breakout stars like San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert.
Ahead of next week’s title match-up, here are a few players that are sure to deliver entertaining performances in Miami.
It’d be pretty difficult to talk about key players for this year’s Super Bowl without highlighting Mahomes, who cemented his star status this season.
In the postseason alone, the 24-year-old Texas Tech alum has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns with no interceptions. In the championship game against the Tennessee Titans, Mahomes ran an impressive 27 yards to score a touchdown in the first half, helping the Chiefs widen the gap going into the second half.
Mahomes is also set to receive a record-setting extension worth at least $40 million per year, CBS Sports reported earlier in January. Negotiations for Mahomes’ deal will probably intensify after the Super Bowl, and it’s not unfair to think that a great performance — and a win — would only help the athlete’s argument for a hefty guaranteed salary, which CBS Sports reports will likely be at least $100 million.
Running back Raheem Mostert of the San Fransisco 49ers launched into the spotlight during the NFC Championship game. The 27-year-old rushed 220 yards and four touchdowns in the face-off against the Green Bay Packers, making him the first player in NFL history to do so in a playoff game.
Mostert’s moment to shine has been a long time coming: he was cut by six other teams before joining the Niners in 2016.
The athlete reportedly keeps track of the dates he was cut from those teams and recites them to himself before every game for motivation, according to SFGate.
“I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers,” Mostert said after the NFC Championship, the outlet reported. “Now I get to tell them, ‘Look where I’m at now.’ I never gave up on my dream. I never gave up on the opportunities when it presented itself. I always worked hard, no matter what.”
Also known as the “Honey Badger” and the “Landlord,” Mathieu is one of the most important players on the Chiefs’ defense — if not the most important.
There have been cases made for the 27-year-old Louisiana State University alum to be named defensive player of the year, and he is known as a leader on the team credited with elevating the Chiefs’ defense this season.
“He’s kind of, like, the soul of this defense,” Chief’s defensive tackle Xavier Williams said to Yahoo! Sports this week of his teammate. “The intensity that he brings gets everybody else in the right state of mind.”
The Niners’ quarterback only threw eight passes in the championship game against the Packers, which fans had fun teasing him for online last Sunday.
The beginning of the 2019 season marked the first time Tom Brady‘s former backup returned after tearing his ACL in the third week of the 2018 season — an injury he incurred in a game against the Chiefs. He was out for the rest of the season.
Before this year, 28-year-old Garoppolo had never played a full 16-game season.
The Chiefs’ wide receiver is nothing if not confident.
“I feel like nobody in the NFL can guard any of us, and that’s no disrespect to nobody,” Hill said last week ahead of the AFC Championship game.
“That’s just the confidence that I got in myself and the wideouts I’ve got around me, including the tight ends and the running backs,” he said. “I feel like no DB unit, no secondary unit, no linebacker, any defense can guard any of us. So man-to-man is just easy for us to beat. If you just allow us to run through zones, it’s even easier.”
The 25-year-old has the skills to back it up, though — his connection with Mahomes is indisputable. One example came in the game against the Tennessee Titans, when Hill caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from the quarterback in the second quarter, marking his first in the playoffs.
Sherman is a Super Bowl vet — he helped bring the Seattle Seahawks to victory in 2014 — but this year’s game will be his first appearance wearing the Niners’ red and gold.
The cornerback joined the 49ers in 2018 but ended up having to sit the season out thanks to a torn Achilles.
The 31-year-old opened up about what made this season’s journey to the Super Bowl different from his previous appearances with the Seahawks.
“Six years ago, there was a different team with a different feel,” Sherman said, per NBC Sports. “We had a top team then. I feel the same way about this team. We’re incredibly talented. We have great coaches and weapons all around.”
“I’m just a little bit older. Back then, they didn’t call me ‘Uncle Sherm.’ They do now. In Year 9, it is a different feel for me. You appreciate things a little more,” he added. “My son gets to see me play. He turns six a few days after the Super Bowl and he wants a ring for his birthday. I’m going to do my best to try to get that for him.”
Other standouts from both teams include 49ers tight end George Kittle, the men of San Francisco’s defensive line, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, running back Damien Williams and defensive lineman Chris Jones.
The 49ers and the Chiefs will face-off at the Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, Feb. 2, in Miami at the Hard Rock Stadium. The game will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, airing on FOX.