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Baltimore's Cary Williams

Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams, a former All-American at Washburn, has emerged as a star in the NFL.

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Super Bowl XLVII
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Special niche for Wilhoite

San Francisco 49ers Michael Wilhoite

By Ernie W. Webb III | ernie.webb@washburn.edu

From practice squad, to special teams captain, to playing in Super Bowl XLVII. Talk about your rapid climbs on the roster of one of the top squads in the NFL.

That has been Michael Wilhoite’s journey with the San Francisco 49ers, who play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in the Super Bowl.

“You talk about the concept of a meritocracy on a football team and that’s your shining star, that’s your shining light, one of them, Michael Wilhoite,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said last week during a news conference. “Players knew that, evidenced by the way he plays and produces in practice and in games. That was a popular announcement, announcing Michael Wilhoite as the special teams captain.”

Wilhoite’s ascent is similar to that of fellow former Ichabod Cary Williams, a starting cornerback for the Ravens who worked his way up from the practice squad. Wilhoite joined San Francisco’s practice squad in December 2011 but wasn’t activated to the 53-man roster until November 2012.

“It was a great feeling,” Wilhoite said during an interview with Comcast Sportsnet. “It’s an honor to get on the field with these guys and have fun and help the team any way I can.”

Despite playing five regular season games and one divisional playoff game, Wilhoite garnered enough respect to be named a captain on special teams before the 49ers’ Jan. 20 win against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game.

"Everybody sees it (Wilhoite’s work ethic), everybody appreciates it,” Harbaugh said. “It elevates a player on a team in the eyes of everyone on that team."

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