When the Minnesota Vikings (who have former Penn safety Kevin Stefanski C’04 on its coaching staff) lost in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs and then the Green Bay Packers (who have former Penn offensive lineman Greg Van Roten W’12 on its roster) lost a week later, it looked like Penn wouldn’t have any representatives in Sunday’s Super Bowl pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Baltimore Ravens.
But fear not, Penn football fans. There is, in fact, another connection. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s father, Steve Flacco W’83, played football at Penn – and may have had one of the most important catches in program history.
Earlier this week, Philadelphia Daily News columnist and Penn graduate Rich Hofmann W’80 penned a great piece on his memories of the elder Flacco, who’s been interviewed a lot recently as media outlets around the country are trying to paint a picture of the Ravens starting QB. (The quote that’s getting the most attention is from a New York Times piece that quotes Steve as saying, “Joe is dull. As dull as he is portrayed in the media, he’s that dull. He is dull.”)
Hofmann focused on Penn’s 1982 win over Harvard for the Ivy League championship – which was dubbed “The Miracle on 33rd Street.” The game is best known for kicker Dave Shulman W’84 missing a game-winning field goal attempt as time expired but getting a second chance after a Harvard player was called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty. With no time left on the clock, Shulman made his next kick to send the Quakers to their first league title since 1959 — which, in many ways kickstarted, a sustained period of Ivy dominance at Franklin Field that still lasts today.
But what people may not remember from that legendary game is that it was Flacco who made the last catch of the drive right before Shulman took the field, getting Penn from the 33-yard-line to the 20-yard-line to put the Quakers into field goal range. You can watch the catch-and-run at the 2:00 minute mark of the video below.
And just three weeks before his heroics vs. Harvard, Flacco made another huge play, running for an 83-yard touchdown in a 27-14 victory over Yale. You can watch the video of that run here (the announcers say it was teammate Steve Rubin but it was actually Flacco.)
And finally, thanks to Eric Dolan in the Penn Athletics office, here are a couple of old photos of Flacco from his days at Franklin Field. Take a look at these and then raise a glass to dear old Penn as you watch the big game Sunday.