Many New Jersey football fans embrace a forthcoming Super Bowl guarantee. Either the beloved Philadelphia Eagles will capture the Big Game or else two of their own – Isiah Pacheco of Vineland and Michael Burton from Long Valley (both played college football for Rutgers University) – will seize rings as members of the opposing Kansas City Chiefs.
This won’t share the same fan sentiment of Andy Reid vs. Nick Sirianni or Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce being the first brothers to face each other in the Super Bowl, but it has a nice twist.
While Eagles fans wear green, Chiefs and Rutgers backers will be seeing red, the color of their uniforms, for the Feb. 12 showdown in Glendale, Az.
Talk about win win.
The Rutgers University, Kansas City Chiefs connection
Pacheco and Burton also try to become the 24th and 25th Scarlet Knights alumni to be winning members of a Super Bowl team. Sebastian Joseph-Day won it with the Los Angeles Rams last year. Joseph-Day now plays defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Bill Pickel (1983-84 Oakland Raiders) was the first.
Pacheco Is One of the NFL’s Best Stories
Some Garden State fans will be seeing the star rookie running back for the first time in the Super Bowl. Watch for No. 10, whose recent specialty is taking a play-action fake from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, drifting into the flat and taking a short pass. Pacheco, who has excellent speed, then proceeds down the field behind a wall of blockers.
He is part of the most prolific offense in football. The Chiefs led the entire NFL with 496 points (the Eagles were second with 477 points).
The Vineland native has become an increasingly-instrumental force in the Kansas City backfield. He’s also known for hard running and gaining yards after the catch. Pacheco made key contributions in Kansas City’s 23-20 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals, propelling his team to the Super Bowl.
It added an exclamation point to what’s been an exciting season.
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) January 30, 2023
Isiah Pacheco is a NFL Cinderella story
Pacheco finished his rookie campaign with a team-high 830 rushing yards on 170 carries. He scored five rushing touchdowns and was the Chiefs’ primary kick returner with 29 returns for 597 yards. And he is averaging 5.5 yards per carry in this year’s playoffs (22 carries for 121 yards).
Pacheco also notched 130 all-purpose yards in the AFC Championship Game. He has deceptive breakaway speed and is good selling the look of a blocking play to opposing defenses. Pacheco then slips out into the flat and Mahomes tosses to him in open space.
While being a breath of fresh air for the Chiefs, Pacheco stresses the need to gain more seasoning.
“I’m extremely blessed to be in this situation,” Pacheco said after the title game. “Day in, day out, I’m just going to continue to be myself and learn from the leaders on this team.
“I believe in the coaches, I trust the scheme and my first job is to help Pat [Mahomes] open up the pocket a little bit.”
Pacheco helps in several ways. One is being a reliable source for Mahomes to deposit 10 or 15 balls to each game. That takes immediate pressure off the likely league MVP, who is dealing with a high-ankle sprain. Pacheco’s second assist to Mahomes is as blocker.
His prominence grew after Mahomes was injured against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round game.
Leave it to former Eagles coach Andy Reid, now in charge of the Chiefs, to cultivate a top Cinderella story Pacheco was taken 251st in the 2022 draft, just 12 spots away from being undrafted.
And he was only 11 from the Mr. Irrelevant spot of San Francisco 49ers QB Brock Purdy, the final player taken in the draft at 262.
Purdy was a major force for San Francisco until the Eagles and an injury made him irrelevant in Philly’s 31-7 victory last week.
Pacheco, like Purdy, has thrived under the radar.
"Brock Purdy's story is amazing. But what if I told you there's a RB who was the 251st pick and the 17th RB taken in last year's Draft who may end up playing the biggest role in the AFC Championship Game?" @Pschrags on why @chiefs RB @isiah_pachecoRB is his man to watch Sunday. pic.twitter.com/Z9z2KksXvs
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) January 27, 2023
Isiah Pacheco making Vineland High School proud
He began playing Pop Warner Football for the Vineland Blitz.
Pacheco was a quarterback and running back for Vineland High School and helped the Fighting Clan beat the Millville Thunderbolts on Thanksgiving Day in his senior year.
That’s serious props in this area, as the Vineland-Millville rivalry dates back to 1894. It is one of the oldest in the country.
At Rutgers, he amassed 563 rushing attempts for 2,442 yards with 18 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 47 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown.
Where did Michael Burton come from?
While 23-year-old Pacheco is a young gun, 31-year-old Burton has shown grit to stay in the NFL with several teams. Since 2015, they include the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Washington Commanders and now the Chiefs.
While his future is never assured, Burton keeps making it to the show.
Kansas City’s primary fullback, Burton appeared in all 17 games during the regular season and finished with five carries and two receptions. A contributor on special teams, Burton produced four tackles in 2022. He also logged 14 snaps with the unit during the AFC Championship.
Prior to Rutgers (2011-14), Burton played for West Morris High School.
In his final collegiate season in 2014, he had 15 receptions for 150 receiving yards.
New Jersey is not only proud of its two NFL representatives. They could get a bonus if Burton comes in the game to block for Pacheco.