MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Everywhere Eric Rowe goes in the area around U.S. Bank Stadium is a reminder that the New England Patriots defensive back is playing in his second consecutive Super Bowl.
Plenty of NFL hall of famers don’t ever get that chance.
But Rowe hasn’t forgotten where he comes from — and not just his hometown of Klein, Texas.
"Go Utes! Never forget that," he shouted during Wednesday’s media day.
Rowe is proud to represent the University of Utah at Super Bowl LII, and he could become just the third Ute all-time to win multiple Super Bowl rings, joining Marv Fleming and Manny Fernandez.
"It’s been three years out and still a lot of Ute fans still hit me up," he said. "I’m a big Ute fan, I still root for you all.
"Really, it’s just that family atmosphere is still with me, even though I’m on the East Coast. It makes me proud to represent the school."
Rowe is in his third year in the NFL, and it’s been an emotional roller coaster. Drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft by the Eagles, Rowe spent 17 months in Philadelphia — the Patriots' opponent for Sunday’s big game.
He moved to New England in a 2016 trade for a conditional draft pick, and has started ever since, compiling 15 tackles at safety for the defending NFL champions with whom he won a Super Bowl ring a year ago.
"It’s been a hard ride," Rowe said. "It’s not easy getting here, but it’s been fun at the same time. Just to go back-to-back, I didn’t think I'd go for the first time and to go again (to the Super Bowl) in my third year in the league is incredible."
Rowe has impressed his teammates in New England, including former BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But mostly, he's fit right into the secondary that has led the Patriots to the top of the NFL mountain.
"It’s a credit to him for his work ethic and his mental toughness to kind of battle through getting to a new team … and asked to run a different defense or even play a different position," Patriots cornerback Josh Boyer said. "He’s done really well for us."
Among his hardships, the 6-foot-1 Rowe was injured for eight games of the season and asked to change positions. But he’s also part of the reason the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl with the chance to make history.
"Now the feeling is that I want to re-create that feeling I had last year," he said. "After I won, the parade, the best feeling of my life. I want to go back and win another one."
Cougars in Super Bowl LII