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Mizzou's Mitch Morse returns to KC at the center of Buffalo's attack

Mizzou's Mitch Morse returns to KC at the center of Buffalo's attack

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Mitch Morse, OL

Mitch Morse, a nomad along Mizzou’s offensive line from 2011-14, guides the Buffalo Bills into the AFC Championship game in Kansas City, a homecoming for the former Missouri standout. The Bills' starting center played his first four years in the NFL with the Chiefs. (Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com)

The matchup for Super Bowl LV will be set Sunday and three players in the conference championship games could become the latest Missouri Tiger to win a Super Bowl ring. Only 11 players who ended their college career at MU have been on a Super Bowl-winning roster.

This year, Buffalo Bills starting center Mitch Morse, Kansas City Chiefs backup offensive lineman Yasir Durant or Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert could become No. 12.

Morse figures to be the only one of the three to see playing time, barring injuries elsewhere. Two years ago, the Bills signed Morse to a four-year contract worth a whopping $44.5 million, making him, at the time, the highest-paid center in the NFL. A series of concussions have sidelined him several times over the years, but he’s become a stable force on one of the NFL’s rising franchises. On Sunday, Morse returns to the state where he played in college and began his NFL career: The Chiefs drafted Morse in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft and converted the Mizzou tackle into their starting center.

Morse’s Bills play the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium at 5:40 p.m. CT. It will be Morse’s first game back in the state of Missouri since leaving the Chiefs in free agency.

In Morse’s last two years at Mizzou, he was part of a standout offensive line that helped guide the Tigers to consecutive SEC championship game appearances in 2013 and 2014. The 2013 showdown with Auburn had some parallels to Sunday’s AFC Championship game. With a victory the Tigers could have marched ahead to the BCS national championship game. With a win Sunday, Morse will find himself in Tampa to play for the Lombardi Trophy.

Those moments on college football’s big stage still resonate with the sixth-year pro.

“We were very fortunate those last few years at Missouri,” Morse said this past week on Zoom. “Coach Pinkel put together a very competitive group of guys who really cared about each other. We wanted to go out and compete for each other. That's all you can really do in these moments. If you try to make too much out of it or change what got you to that moment, you’ll get yourself in trouble. … You never forget Atlanta. It was such a special moment to be in those games where you really understand the power of the SEC and the fan bases. So for us, it'll be a great challenge. And definitely had an impact at Missouri following forward through my professional career.”

Morse still makes his offseason home in the Kansas City area with his wife and their young family.

“It’s the hidden gem of the Midwest for us, very fond memories,” Morse said. “After going to high school and growing up in Texas, I went to the University of Missouri and I really do have an affinity for Missouri and Kansas in general. Salt of the earth people.”

Should their teams hoist the Lombardi in two weeks, Morse, Gabbert or Durant will become the first Super Bowl-winning player from Mizzou since Shane Ray won Super Bowl 50 as a Denver Broncos rookie five years ago.

Plenty more have appeared in Super Bowls — from San Francisco’s Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, Seattle’s Justin Britt, Carolina’s Kony Ealy in recent years — but only these 12 finished their college careers at Mizzou and played on Super Bowl-winning teams:

•  Miami Dolphins defensive back Henry Stuckey (Super Bowl 7)

• Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Andy Russell (9, 10)

• San Francisco 49ers defensive back Eric Wright (16, 19, 23, 24)

• New York Giants running back Tony Galbreath (21)

• New York Giants defensive lineman Jerome Sally (21)

• Washington Redskins offensive guard Phil Pettey (22)

• St. Louis Rams linebacker Mike Jones (34)

• New England Patriots defensive back Otis Smith (36).

• New England Patriots defensive lineman Rick Lyle (38)

• New Orleans Saints quarterback Chase Daniel (44).

• Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (50).

Also, two former Missouri players who finished their college careers at other schools won Super Bowls:

• Oakland Raiders defensive lineman John Matuszak (11, 15)

• Denver Broncos tight end Byron Chamberlain (32, 33)

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