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Stanford in the NFL: Fleming, Gaffney, Richards are champions
Austin Hooper caught a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan in the second quarter to extend Atlanta's lead to 14-0, but Cameron Fleming and the New England Patriots mounted a huge comeback in the fourth quarter to prevail in a Stanford-studded Super Bowl LI. (ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford in the NFL: Fleming, Gaffney, Richards are champions

Three former Stanford football players were crowned champions of Super Bowl LI on Sunday night in the New England Patriots’ dramatic, come-from-behind 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, running back Tyler Gaffney and safety Jordan Richards all earned Super Bowl rings for their efforts to lead the Patriots to the top of the NFL.

Though Gaffney and Richards did not play in the game, Fleming entered the game on several of New England’s extra offensive-line packages. He earned the second Super Bowl ring of his young career, following up New England’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX two seasons ago.

On the losing end of the battle, former Cardinal tight end Austin Hooper played above and beyond as part of an impressive Atlanta receiving core for the runner-up Falcons. Hooper caught three of his six targets for 32 yards and a receiving touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Falcons an early 14-0 lead, after a Devonta Freeman rushing touchdown had given Atlanta the first points of the game a few minutes earlier.

Hooper’s touchdown came on his longest reception of the night, a 19-yard seam fade that just beat out eight-year veteran safety Patrick Chung — coincidentally, an Oregon alumnus. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan absolutely drilled the seam fade for Hooper, who used a crisp route and an extra bit of speed at the end to come down with the ball in the back of the end zone.

At the game’s conclusion, Hooper and the Falcons passing attack had racked up 284 yards and two touchdowns in their first Super Bowl appearance since 1998.

The NFL now rolls into its offseason, but new Cardinal alumni will be looking to add to Stanford’s wide alumni base in the NFL. Out of all the universities, Stanford is currently ranked 13th in terms of number of players playing at the highest level. With exciting prospects like Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas entering the league, Stanford will look to increase its NFL presence with the new year.

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.