It was quiet in the New York Giants' locker room on Jan. 25, 1987.
Soon the players would head out into the tunnel and step on the field at the Rose Bowl, where more than 101,000 people would watch them play the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.A time to be nervous? Not for long. Lawrence Taylor got everyone's adrenaline pumping.
``He was ready to play,' recalled Andy Headen. ``He was going around hollering, getting everybody else excited.
``There were some butterflies in our stomachs when we were in the tunnel, running out on the field. But by the time the game started and we hit someone, that wore off and it was a football game.'
One which the Giants went on to win, 39-20.
The Super Bowl experience is something that doesn't come to every pro football player. It came once for Headen, a native of Liberty who played at Eastern Randolph High School and then at Clemson.
Headen was a reserve linebacker most of his six seasons with the Giants. He didn't start in the Super Bowl, but remembers getting in between 20-30 plays.
Getting ready for the Super Bowl was an unusual experience in itself. The Giants got to California a week before the game and spent much of the time taking in the sights of the laid-back West Coast lifestyle.
``Coach (Bill) Parcells didn't give us a curfew for the first few days,' said Headen, who is now retired and living in Greensboro. ``So after practice, we just went - night clubs, out meeting people. Guys had a lot of money in their pockets. A couple of times we just made in back in time for practice the next day.
``We were just happy to be there at first. The last three days, though, we started getting real serious about the game. We changed hotels, had tighter security, a curfew.
``I hung around with Taylor most of the time. You had no choice but to be ready for the game when you were around him.'
Taylor, former standout at UNC-Chapel Hill, was the most dominating defensive player in the NFL, leading a Giant defense that throttled most opponents. Denver, led by the scrambling of quarterback John Elway, pushed the Giants around in the first half but only managed a 10-9 lead.
The New York defense then shut down Elway in the third quarter while the Giants hung up 17 points for a 26-10 lead that put the game away.
One play that stands out in Headen's memory was made by a reserve Giant defense end named Robbie Jones.
``He wanted to get in the game so bad,' Headen said. ``So he slipped onto the field as an extra man and made the tackle. He knew he was the 12th man on the field, and the referees saw it and called the penalty. But he just wanted to say he had been in the game.'
Football is over now for Headen, the result of an injury. There are some tangible reminders of the good times, including his Super Bowl ring.
``I keep it locked up and don't wear it a lot,' he said. ``Once in a while I'll wear it or show it to someone who wants to see it.
``To me, that ring shows all the hard work it took to get it. There are a lot of good memories - almost too good sometimes, which is why I don't keep it out all the time.'
Headen and Taylor are two names on a long list of North Carolina-related pros who have participated in the Super Bowl.
Sunday's game, when the San Francisco 49ers meet the Denver Broncos, will add some more. For San Francisco, starting offensive tackle Harris Barton is from UNC-CH and placekicker Mike Cofer from N.C. State. Each has a Super Bowl ring from the Niners' win over Cincinnati last year.
49ers special teams player Antonio Goss is a Randleman native who played at UNC-CH. For Denver, assistant coach Mo Forte was head coach at North Carolina A&T for six seasons.
Here are some others (but by no means all) who have had the Super Bowl experience:
Joe Gibbs, a native of Mocksville, coached the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowls in the 1980s, winning two of them.
Linebacker Bobby Bell, a native of Shelby, played in the first Super Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs, when they lost to Green Bay in 1967, and again in 1970 when the Chiefs beat Minnesota.
Carl Eller, a native of Winston-Salem, played in four Super Bowls for the Vikings - and lost in all of them. He was a starter at defensive end in the games in 1970, '74, '75 and '77.
Jethro Pugh, who played at Elizabeth City State, matched Eller's four Super Bowl appearances. Pugh, a defensive tackle, started four times for the Dallas Cowboys, winning in 1972 and 1978, losing in '71 and '76.
Three players from Greensboro have been in the Super Bowl. Washington Redskins center Jeff Bostic played in three games and has two Super Bowl rings. Running back Lee Rouson played with Headen and Taylor on the Giants' winner in '87. And tight end Joey Hackett was on the losing side for the Broncos in '87.
Probably the player with the worst luck is Burlington native Billy Bryan, who played at Duke. Bryan has been a member of four Denver Bronco squads that have made it to the Super Bowl - and has missed three of them with injuries. In his rookie year he was on injured reserve the whole season and missed the '78 loss to Dallas. When Denver made it back for the 1987 game, Bryan was healthy and played against the Giants. But he missed most of the next season, and thus the loss to Washington, with a knee injury. Another knee injury wiped out this season and he'll sit out Sunday's game against San Francisco.
Dwaine Board, a defensive end from North Carolina A&T, played in Super Bowl victories for the 49ers in '82 and '85. Another Super Bowl Aggie was defensive back Cornell Gordon, who played for the New York Jets in their historic 1969 upset of the Baltimore Colts.
Duke linebacker Mike Curtis was also involved in the '69 game, on the losing side with Baltimore. He got his Super Bowl ring two years later when the Colts beat Dallas.
Miami Dolphins guard Ed Newman of Duke played in Super Bowls 11 years apart - winning in 1974 against Minnesota and losing in 1985 against San Francisco.
A pair of players from Wake Forest, starting guard Jimmy Clack and reserve linebacker Ed Bradley, were members of the '75 and '76 Super Bowl winners at Pittsburgh. Another Deacon, guard Billy Ard, was on the Giant winner in '87.
Brevard native Mickey Marvin, a guard, started for the Oakland Raiders when they beat Philadelphia in 1981 and for the Los Angeles Raiders when they thrashed Washington three years later.