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Minnesota Football: Gophers in the NFL—Championship Round

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Four entered the weekend and three are headed to the Super Bowl

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The final two conference playoff games have been played and just one Super Bowl remains. Four former Minnesota Golden Gophers came into the weekend, and three remain with a chance to win their first or second ring. One will get a chance to come back from injury and perhaps have the toughest job of all in Super Bowl 55. Here is a recap of how the Gophers faired in the NFC and AFC Championship games and what lies ahead for three of them in Super Bowl LV.

Damien Wilson—Linebacker—Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Championship Game vs Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wilson played just 12 snaps in the game against the Bills as KC went nickel for a majority of the game. Wilson did not record any stats, but still will enjoy a trip to his second consecutive Super Bowl and a chance to win his second ring when the Chiefs take on the Bucs.

Antoine Winfield Jr. —Safety—Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC Championship Game @ Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl vs Kansas City Chiefs

No one is breathing a sigh of relief more than Antoine Winfield, Jr. After having a great game against the Saints to help get his team in the NFC Championship game, Winfield injured his ankle at practice this past week. It appeared he was going to be a game time decision.

But, unfortunately after a workout on the field before the game, he decided the ankle just would not let him play and Winfield missed the game.

Winfield is expected to be back for the Super Bowl and may have one of the toughest assignments in the game—tracking star KC tight end Travis Kelce in coverage.

Tyler Johnson-WR-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC Championship Game @ Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl vs Kansas City Chiefs

With Antoinio Brown out with a knee injury, many hoped that would mean a lot more run for Tyler Johnson in the Tampa offense. The result....kinda. Johnson played 19 offensive snaps and was targeted three times by Tom Brady. But he made two count. The first came on a big third down for the Buccaneers in a third quarter of the game. Just like the week previous against the Saints, Johnson made a huge catch when it counted.

The second came in the last two minutes of the game. Green Bay down eight points had just kicked a field goal to cut the lead to five, and then kicked off to the Bucs. Tampa bay had the ball near midfield just needing one more first down to be able to kneel out the clock. Bradt found Johnson streaking across the middle of the field with GB corner back Kevin King in quick pursuit, and then Tyler Johnson pulled off the flop that earned the ire of packer/Badger fans across the state of Wisconsin.

Was it PI? Yes it was. Did he sell it? Yes he did. Does anyone other than Green Bay fans care? Nope.

@TK210Photog on twitter

Kamal Martin-LB-Green Bay Packers

NFC Championship Game vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Martin ended his rookie season playing 14 defensive snaps and recording one tackle and one assisted tackle for loss in the loss to the Buccaneers. He hopefully should figure larger into the Packers plans next season coming off of his knee injury.

Super Bowl LV—Sunday February 7—Tampa, FL

With the win Tampa Bay becomes the first team in the 55 year history of the Super Bowl to play the game in their home stadium. It will also be a huge milestone game for the Gophers. With three former Gophers playing in the game it’s the first time Minnesota has had three or more former players in the Super Bowl since 1970 when the Chiefs’ Bobby Bell, Bob Stein and Aaron Brown beat the Vikings’ Carl Eller, Kent Kramer and Milt Sunde 23-7 in Super Bowl IV. Additionally with one Gopher guaranteed to earn a ring in Super Bowl LV, it will be the first time in 14 seasons that Minnesota has had a Super Bowl winner in back to back years since Tyrone Carter with the Steelers in 2006, followed by Ben Utecht and Darrell Reid with the Tony Dungy-coached Colts in 2007.