One year ago, the concept of playing in a Super Bowl was far from Nelson Agholor’s mind. After turning in a second consecutive season that fell short of the expectations that come with being a first-round NFL draft pick, Agholor was not only worried about his team’s success but also his job security.
A notoriously difficult place to play professional sports, Philadelphia caused Agholor to bear the brunt of the frustration felt by the city’s sports fans following back-to-back 7-9 seasons and a playoff drought that had entered its third year.
Playing as an outside receiver rather than in the slot where he had succeeded greatly as one in a long line of star Trojan wideouts, Nelson struggled, catching only 59 of 114 passes thrown his way (a less than stellar 51.8 percent catch rate) for 648 yards and three scores. Making matters worse, Nelson was eventually benched for a game late in the 2016 season by head coach Doug Pederson.
After an underwhelming beginning to his NFL career, there was speculation that he would be a part of a planned overhaul with the Eagles to boost them into playoff contention. Despite fan expectations, Agholor was not only retained for the 2017 season but also moved back into his natural slot position after the Eagles traded receiver Jordan Matthews to the Bills in August. Adding outside playmakers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery further freed up the former Trojan to focus on regaining strength as a slot weapon. That is exactly what Agholor became in 2017 — a weapon.
More than doubling his career totals across the board, Agholor turned in one of the best bounce-back performances of any player in the NFL this season. Going from an afterthought on the outside to a dynamic slot receiver, Agholor caught 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017. In an offense that boasts talents like Jeffery, running back Jay Ajayi and tight end Zach Ertz, Agholor has established himself as one of the absolute key pieces.
While Nelson is no stranger to having weight on his shoulders, from single-handedly leading his high school Berkeley Prep to its first state finals run in school history to countless primetime Pac-12 games at the Coliseum, he will certainly be looking forward to the incomparable spectacle dubbed “The Big Game.”
This year, Agholor will be the sole USC alumnus to participate in the Super Bowl. Sixty Trojans have previously competed in the game, which is the third most of any school according to NFL.com.
Three Trojans, current USC Athletic Director and former Steelers receiver Lynn Swann (1976), Raiders running back Marcus Allen (1984) and Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith (2014) went on to capture Super Bowl MVP awards for their performances. Agholor will look to join that group on Sunday.