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The Big 33 Football Classic & the Super Bowl Continue Streak

February 4, 2022
Tyler Boyd continues the super bowl streak for the big 33

It all started with Herb Adderley in 1957. It continues to today with Cincinnati WR Tyler Boyd. The two players, plus the other 142, are all connected by two things – the Super Bowl and the Big 33 Football Classic, a high school football all-star game that has been played for over the past half-century.

Beginning in 1957, the Big 33 Football Classic has been played annually. It has followed a few different formats over the years and currently pits the best high school football players in Pennsylvania against their counterparts in the state of Maryland. The original format had Pennsylvania’s best against the best players from around the nation. Through the course of the game’s history, PA players have faced all-star teams from Texas, Ohio, and, of course, Maryland. 

The Name: Big 33 – Where did it come from?
“While the game was originally played with the best 33 players in each state (hence its name), the organizers added a 34th player to give kickers a chance to be separate of the 33 count as to give one more non-kicker a chance to be named to the Big 33.” – wikipedia

The game has a very unique link to the NFL and the Super Bowl. At least one player that played in the Big 33 game as a high school athlete has played in every single Super Bowl. The streak began with Adderley who played his high school football for Northeast HS in Philadelphia. A 1957 graduate, Adderley played in the very first Big 33 Classic and starred for the Green Bay Packers in the first ever Super Bowl in 1966. He was also on the 1967 Packers team that won Super Bowl II.

There are many familiar names among the Big 33 alumni that have played in a Super Bowl. The streak stayed alive in Super Bowl III when a young quarterback predicted that his New York Jets would beat the NFL champion Baltimore Colts. That young quarterback was Joe Namath, a product of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Namath would become the first quarterback to win a college national championship, a major professional league title (AFL), and a Super Bowl.

In the 2000 Big 33 game, the PA all-stars played all-stars from Ohio. One of them was a quarterback from Findlay. His name? Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben would go on to star at Miami (OH) and he just recently retired after 18 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Roethlisberger won the 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year before leading Pittsburgh to two Super Bowl titles.

Last year’s Super Bowl featured four former Big 33 players. Three of them actually played in Super Bowl 55 while the other was the Kansas City Chiefs general manager – Brett Veatch. Veatch played high school football at Mount Carmel in Pennsylvania. Chiefs backup QB Chad Henne and OT Yasir Durant and Tampa Bay’s AQ Shipley all played high school football in Pennsylvania. Chiefs DE Frank Clark also played in the Big 33 game in 2011 for Ohio.

In addition to Boyd, this year’s game also features a few other connections to the Big 33 game. Noah Spence, who played at Bishop McDevitt HS in Harrisburg, PA, is on the Bengals practice squad. Aaron Donald, the former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was a standout defensive lineman at Penn Hills high school near Pittsburgh. Donald was selected to play in the Big 33 game but declined the invitation.