BH

Rams tight end Brycen Hopkins

It's going to be a night Van Jefferson won't soon forget. 

The Ravenwood alum hauled in four catches for 23 yards as his Los Angeles Rams completed a comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, in Super Bowl LVI, notching him a ring in his second year in the league.

Though, celebrating the Super Bowl win is understandably going to be second on Jefferson's list of immediate priorities. 

His wife Samaria went into labor during the game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles with her and Jefferson's new child, a son. 

The former Raptor did get to soak in a little bit of the Lombardi jubilee with his young daughter and father, Cardinals wideout coach Shawn Jefferson, before quickly rushing out of the stadium to go be with his growing family. 

Jefferson's unforgettable evening was just part of the equation for Middle Tennessee big game connections, with both former Ensworth tight end Brycen Hopkins and former Brentwood Academy cornerback Jalen Ramsey scoring their first Super Bowl wins and playing heavily into the night's outcome. 

While Ramsey is always expected to make headlines, it was Hopkins' breakout game that really turned some heads. The 2020 fourth-round pick out of Purdue had only one catch for nine yards in his two-year career and had only been active for 10 games prior to Sunday.

However, with Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined with a leg injury, and the Rams without No. 2 wideout Robert Woods and top tight end Tyler Higbee, Hopkins stepped up with four catches for 47 yards, including two catches for 15 yards on LA’s final drive that help set up a Matthew Stafford-to-Cooper Kupp game-winning touchdown with 1:25 remaining.

Hopkins also had a key block on fourth down on that same drive that sprang Kupp for a first that kept the Rams' drive alive. The son of former Tennessee Titans tackle Brad Hopkins, Brycen stepped into a larger role after Higbee was downgraded to inactive and second-string tight end Kendall Blanton reaggravated an injury during the game.

The third-year TE had the second-most receptions on the team and three of his four grabs went for first downs, with two on key third-down situations.

Ramsey, widely considered the top cornerback in the NFL, contributed four tackles against the Bengals, but he had one of the toughest outings of his career, taking a few lumps against Cincinnati wideout Ja'Marr Chase, who finished with five catches for 89 yards. Statistically, it was Ramsey’s career-worst game in terms of yards allowed in coverage. 

Ramsey was burned twice in the game; first near the end of first quarter on a 46-yard pitch and catch from Joe Burrow to Chase, then again early in the third quarter on a 75-yard touchdown reception to former Oak Ridge receiver Tee Higgins. 

However, Ramsey was absolved of some blame on the Higgins play. Replays showed the referees missed a facemask penalty on Higgins during the catch where Ramsey stumbled and was flung to the ground. The corner looked confused after the score when the refs held the flags on Higgins' touchdown.

After the game, referee Ronald Torbert disclosed to reporters that the referee crew did not believe the play warranted a facemask penalty because Higgins didn’t twist and turn Ramsey’s helmet.

"Our rule is that if there is a grab and twist and turn, there's enough for a foul," Torbert told PFWA pool reporter Joe Reedy. "If there's just a rake across the facemask, where there's not a twist and turn even if there's a grab, there is no foul. The officials did not see any contact that rose to the level of a foul for a 15-yard facemask."

Ramsey, who was acquired by LA in 2019, has been a cornerstone for the Rams’ vaunted defense since he arrived from Jacksonville. While Sunday wasn't his best showing, Ramsey has been a vital part to Los Angeles' success since he joined the team.

Despite the tough outing and the blatant no-call, Ramsey did get the last laugh. The three-time first team All-Pro got his ring and celebrated with one of his daughters post-game.

“SUPER BOWL CHAMPS!” Ramsey tweeted after the game. “God is great. ALL GLORY TO GOD! THANK YOU JESUS! … YALL CAN’T SAY [expletive] ABOUT MY CAREER NOW BTW! God bless.”

All three Middle Tennessee alums are slated to return to Los Angeles in 2022 and possibly make a run at repeating as Super Bowl champions.