The NAIA Football Connection to the 2023 Superbowl

Joe Pannunzio – QB – University of Souther Colorado (1981 NAIA Football)

Every year I look for the connection between NAIA football and the Superbowl. Sometimes it’s as easy as finding a player on roster. Other year’s it’s a lot of “this guy knew this guy and was coached by this guy whose brother had breakfast with this guy.”

This year was in between. There were no players on roster that played football at the NAIA level. But two coaches got their start in the profession on the NAIA sideline.

Joe Pannunzio, Assistant Special Teams Coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, is a graduate of the University of Southern Colorado (CSU-Pueblo). He was a standout quarterback in the NAIA, leading his team to a No. 9 ranking in NAIA Division I while earning honorable mention all-conference accolades in 1980. He amassed 2,981 yards of total offense, scoring 17 rushing touchdowns (four in one game) and passed for 2,703 yards and 22 touchdown. He was named team captain and team MVP his senior year. Pannunzio then began his coaching career as the wide receivers coach at his alma mater in 1981. From 1987-90, Pannunzio was the offensive coordinator at Mesa (CO) College. He additionally coached the school’s quarterbacks and wide receivers from 1982-84. During his seven years at Mesa, the program twice appeared in the NAIA National Championship game and once led the nation in total offense and scoring.

For the Chiefs, Ken Flajole is the connection. The outside linebackers coach, is a 1976 graduate of Pacific Lutheran where he played football and started his coaching career under legendary NAIA/DIII football coach Frosty Westering. He continued on the NAIA staff in 1977 and 1978.

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