Two former members of the United States Military Academy’s Black Knights football team are set to take opposite sides of the field at this year’s Super Bowl.
Cole Christiansen, a linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Brett Toth, an offensive tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles, will compete against each other during Super Bowl LVII this Sunday, Feb. 12, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
It is unlikely either player will make it onto the field for kickoff, but whichever team wins will earn their soldier-athlete the ability to join a small group of West Point graduates with a Super Bowl ring.
Toth, who played his senior year at West Point in 2017, is a 1st lieutenant in the Army. In the offseason he’s an instructor with Temple University’s ROTC program, according to his Eagles biography.
Although he will not be able to compete in this year’s big matchup after tearing his ACL, Toth has learned from the Army that “[i]f you’re not the guy, then you have to support the guy,” he told ABC News 4.
Toth’s time at West Point briefly overlapped with Christiansen’s, who played his senior year at West Point in 2019 and served as a two-year team captain, according to his West Point biography.
Both footballers earned a waiver to pursue a career in the National Football League, an issue that recently received renewed attention when Congress included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that would end the ability of service academy graduates to defer their active-duty service requirement to play professional sports. Lawmakers have since reversed course on that measure, allowing the existing rules to remain in effect for academy students who enrolled before June 1, 2021.
“I want every player I coach to be able to play his very best, to play at a really high level and if that means being able to play beyond college I think it’s fantastic,” Jeff Monken, West Point football’s head coach, said in a 2020 statement after Christiansen and others received offers from the NFL to be undrafted free agents.
This will not be the first time a graduate from West Point, or one of the service academies, will take home the coveted jewelry. Among others, Bob Mischak, a force on the field as a player and coach both for Army’s Black Knights and in the NFL, won three Super Bowl rings as a tight end coach for the Raiders.
Whether cheering for either team, the historic Navy flyover or just an amazing halftime performance from Rihanna, fans of one of the most watched televised events of the year will have plenty to keep their eyes on during Super Bowl Sunday.
A spokesman from the U.S. Military Academy Athletics Department said it was unlikely the two athletes suit up for the game but was not immediately available for further comment.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media