Mack Hollins, Joe Thuney looking for Super Bowl rings

State, Carolina players among several Super Bowl ties to the state

Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins, a former walk-on at UNC, is looking to win a Super Bowl in his first NFL season. (James Lang / USA TODAY Sports)

Mack Hollins is ready for the Super Bowl.

The wide receiver for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles was so excited about ending his rookie season in the world’s biggest game, he didn’t want to wait for the team to fly out to Minnesota.

Sunday, Hollins posted a video of himself riding a bike, while wearing his Eagles helmet. “1,360 miles to go,” he tweeted.

Later in the day, Hollins arrived with the rest of the team in Minnesota for Sunday’s big game.

“It was a long ride,” he joked. “It was chilly, but I made it.”

Hollins actually flew, with the rest of his teammates, and got the full experience of just how big a deal making it to the Super Bowl is.

“You get off the plane, and there’s 60 cameras there,” he said. “It’s a pinch yourself kind of thing.”

Hollins, a former UNC Tar Heel who joined the team as a walk-on and eventually worked his way into a big-play receiver and fourth-round NFL Draft pick, is just one of several members of the Eagles and New England Patriots who have North Carolina roots.

While Hollins got a jump on the Super Bowl star-making machine with his biking video, New England offensive lineman Joe Thuney stole the show at Monday evening’s Super Bowl Opening Night festivities.

Thuney was handed a Rubik’s Cube by a reporter who was — inexplicably — dressed in a shark costume and challenged to solve it.

The former NC State guard was up for the challenge, solving the cube in less than 80 seconds.

Like Hollins, Thuney found the perfect NFL landing spot after leaving the ACC Triangle rivalries behind. Selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, he’ll be playing for his second Super Bowl ring in as many seasons.

“I couldn’t have written a better script,” he said.

One of Thuney’s Patriots teammates appears to be on the verge of a fairy tale ending. Fayetteville’s Dwayne Allen, a former Terry Sanford High Bulldog, had just 10 catches at tight end this season. With All-Pro Rob Gronkowski recovering from a concussion, Allen may see his role increase.

On the other side of the field, Hollins has plenty of Old North State company in Eagles green. Quarterback Carson Wentz, who started most of the year before going down to injury, was born in Raleigh, although he moved to North Dakota at age 3.

Hamlet’s Dannell Ellerbe, who played football and track at Rockingham’s Richmond High, was a late-season pickup for the Eagles at linebacker. He’ll be looking to win his second Super Bowl ring. His first came with the Ravens in 2013.

Backup running back Kenjon Barner was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2013 and spent his rookie season on special teams.

Like Barner, several members of the Eagles coaching staff spent time with the Panthers.

Head coach Doug Pederson was one of the original Carolina Panthers, getting selected off of Miami’s roster in the expansion draft. He was cut before the team’s opening game, however. Instead, that Panthers opener was started by quarterback Frank Reich, who is now Pederson’s offensive coordinator with the Eagles.

Eagles linebacker coach Ken Flajole had the same role with the Panthers from 2003 to 2008.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was never a member of the Panthers, but he had a one-year stopover in North Carolina as secondary coach of NC Central in 1991.