Fayetteville State’s Joshua Williams highlight of NC’s Super Bowl ties

The rookie cornerback helped the Chiefs clinch a spot in Sunday’s game

Kansas City cornerback Joshua Williams, a rookie out of Fayetteville State, helped clinch the Chiefs’ Super Bowl berth with his second half interception against the Bengals. (Brynn Anderson / AP Photo)

The Kansas City Chiefs clinched a berth in Super Bowl LVII thanks in no small part to Joshua Williams.

The rookie cornerback grabbed a tipped Joe Burrow pass late in the fourth quarter for a game-clinching interception in the AFC Championship Game. If the fourth-round pick in last spring’s NFL Draft had any doubt about the significance of his play, it came a day later when the chancellor of his alma mater, Fayetteville State, released a statement.

“It’s an exceptionally great day to be an FSU Bronco!” wrote Darrell T. Allison in a statement titled “A message from the chancellor.”

Allison wrote that he was “thrilled and honored” to congratulate Williams, a Fayetteville native, on his “incredible play.”

“Even more remarkable is the poise, motivation and intelligence Joshua has displayed throughout his college career and now into his rookie season in the NFL playing for a marquee team — not just for his family, his hometown and FSU but for all 102 HBCUs.”

Williams is one of several North Carolina products who will be representing the Old North State in Sunday’s big game. Several other Chiefs teammates had their road to the Super Bowl come through North Carolina.

Tight end Noah Gray was a fifth-round pick in 2021 after playing his college ball for Duke. He set several tight end receiving records for the Blue Devils and provided the Chiefs with 28 catches for 299 yards and a score this season. Like Williams, Gray found out just how big a deal making the Super Bowl was when his neighbors in Kansas City threw an impromptu parade to help him head to the airport to leave for Arizona, the site of the game.

Guard Joe Thuney, a third-round pick out of NC State in 2016, is looking for his third Super Bowl title. Thuney started 15 games for the Chiefs this season and previously won rings with the Patriots, where he spent the first five years of his career.

Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a teammate of Thuney at NC State before transferring to South Florida following his sophomore year in 2014. After playing his first four NFL seasons in Green Bay, he had 42 catches for 687 yards and two touchdowns in his first season with the Chiefs.

Before North Carolinians commit to being Chiefs fans for Sunday’s title game, there are plenty of in-state products on the Eagles as well.

Hickory’s Landon Dickerson started every game for Philadelphia at guard this season and has started 30 of his 31 games over his two NFL seasons after being drafted in the second round out of Alabama. He suffered an elbow injury during the playoffs but is expected to be ready to go on Sunday.

On the other side of the ball is Salisbury’s Javon Hargrave, who made the Pro Bowl this year, in his sixth NFL season. He had 11 sacks this season, bringing his career total to 37.5.

Rookie first-round pick Jordan Davis, who started three of his 13 games played this season at defensive tackle, gives the Eagles a third product of N.C. high schools. Born in Charlotte, Davis played for Mallard Creek before leaving the state to play collegiately at Georgia.

The Eagles also have several former N.C. college standouts on the roster. East Carolina’s Linval Joseph was signed by Philadelphia in mid-November and started the last eight regular season games and both playoff wins in what became his 13th NFL season. He’ll be looking to add a bookend to the Super Bowl ring he won with the Giants in 2012.

Former UNC first-round draft pick Robert Quinn also joined the Eagles at midseason following a late October trade from the Bears. He’s seeking his first Super Bowl championship in his 12th NFL season.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew played two seasons at ECU before moving on to play for Mike Leach at Washington State. In his second year as the Eagles’ backup, following two seasons with Jacksonville, Minshew started two games and appeared in three others.

Both teams also have a player from the state who won’t appear in the game. Greenville’s Cornell Powell, who played for JH Rose High School before going to Clemson, is on the Chiefs’ injured list. Greensboro native and N.C. A&T alum Mac McCain is on the Eagles’ practice squad.

The Eagles and Chiefs both have players whose NFL careers came through Carolina as well. Former Panthers draft pick Harrison Butker was cut in training camp as a rookie, then went on to start as kicker for the Chiefs. The Eagles’ defense will feature corner James Bradberry, who was a 2016 second-round pick of the Panthers and played for Carolina for four seasons. Veteran edge rusher Haason Reddick spent last season with the Panthers before moving on to the Eagles.

Each player will be representing North Carolina, as well as the high schools, colleges and other teams they’ve stopped at throughout their football journeys.

Or, as Fayetteville State’s chancellor put it: “Like the proud Bronco he is, Joshua represented remarkably well for himself and for so many other student-athletes who dream of following in his footsteps.”