Super Bowl XLVI: 5 Underdogs to Root for Sunday Evening

Evan McDonielsCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2012

Mark Herzlich fought cancer and won in his odyssey from UFA to Superbowl.
Mark Herzlich fought cancer and won in his odyssey from UFA to Superbowl.Elsa/Getty Images

If you're not a big Giants fan and don't like the Patriots, what is a football fan to do this Super Bowl Sunday?

My advice: Root for some of the underdogs. 

The guys who, for one reason or another, had to prove themselves despite incredible odds.  The guys on either team who fought through adversity to make it on their Super Bowl-contending team.

Though there are others worthy of note who I won't be able to cover in this piece, I chose this group of five for their interesting stories.

Many will be featured in this year's Super Bowl and one or more could be game changers in the biggest sporting event in the United States, giving us all a symbol of hope to demonstrate the way hard work can pay off.

All the underdogs listed below were undrafted free agents out of college, showing that none of the 32 NFL teams believed in them enough to draft them.

1. Mark Herzlich, LB, Giants

Herzlich might not be starting in the Super Bowl but overcoming bone cancer while in college and making a comeback to make an NFL team certainly puts him atop my list of heroes. 

Fighters like Herzlich make us realize our day-to-day complaints are nothing compared to fighting off a grave illness.  Look for No. 58 on special teams and possibly to spell the outside linebackers at times.

This image is not photoshopped, Woodhead uses his small stature as a strength to beat NFL defenders.
This image is not photoshopped, Woodhead uses his small stature as a strength to beat NFL defenders.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

2. Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots

Some scouts question whether a non-BCS Division I player can make it on an NFL squad, citing the "lack of competition" a dynamic underdog like Woodhead would have faced at the collegiate level.

Well, in Woodhead's shoes, try making it from Division II no less at Chadron State. 

If you never heard of Chadron State and don't know what state it's in, you're definitely not alone (it's in middle America—Chadron, Nebraska for all you trivia fans). Woodhead did some amazing things there.

At 5-foot-7, 195 pounds, Woodhead may be the smallest player in the NFL right now, epitomizing "underdog."  This dynamo is a playmaker and don't be shocked if the Giants defense struggles to see him behind 6-foot-5 linemen as Woodhead sneaks through for a big gain to spell starting-back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB Patriots

Woodhead provides a perfect segway to his teammate in the backfield, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (also known as "The Law Firm" a nickname he earned due to the many names one has to pronounce to get to the end of this 5 syllable name, much like a law firm conglomerate).

If Woodhead is Robin, Green-Ellis is the Batman who was nearly on the NFL unemployment line, working hard to get a new cape to wear with his number on it. 

Now he's one of two NFL backs this year to gain 1,000 yards and never record a fumble, a remarkable accomplishment for a guy who went undrafted, then signed, then waived in a matter of months in 2008.

Green-Ellis finds paydirt in the AFC Championship game.
Green-Ellis finds paydirt in the AFC Championship game.Elsa/Getty Images

Green-Ellis now serves as a balance in the Patriots offense, bringing some hard-earned yards to a league that is quickly becoming more and more pass-heavy.


4. Jack Ballard, TE, Giants

This guy may have ideal size at tight-end at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, and he may have come out of a big BCS school in Ohio State, but Ballard still remains a good underdog story due to being a second-year player who has made a ton of impressive plays despite never being drafted. 

As if that's not enough, imagine being signed, let go, re-signed, waived again and finally sticking on the squad in your rookie year and reaching the Super Bowl in your second season.

Look for Ballard when quarterback Eli Manning needs a safety valve or in the thick of the Pats red-zone defense in key situations.

5. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

This guy has become so ridiculously good that it's sometimes hard to believe he's a true underdog.  

If he keeps this up year-after-year, nobody will remember that he came from a school that has little support for football (very few, if any NFL players come from the University of Massachusetts especially compared to it's famous basketball program) and the fact that no NFL teams wanted him out of the draft. 

Cruz's work ethic and progress has become well documented on his way to becoming quite possibly the NFL's best wide receiver this year (82 receptions, 1500+ yards and 9 TDs). 

Who knows? If Cruz didn't make it on the Giants we might know him as a professional salsa dancer.

Honorable mention: Chase Blackburn (LB, Giants), Julian Edelman (7th Round WR Patriots), James Ihedigbo (UFA also out of UMass, now the starting safety for the Patriots), Dave Tollefson (DE Giants).

Keep an eye out for these guys and if you're like me, at 5-foot-9 on a good day, root for the little guy!  Root for the underdogs and give the under-sized, under-appreciated or overlooked kids a chance on your Pop Warner and high school squads. 

Who knows, one of them might be the next Danny Woodhead!