BIRMINGHAM, Mich. – In NFL history, which player has appeared in the most Super Bowls?
Mike Lodish figures that is a pretty good trivia question and not just because he's the answer … at least for a couple more weeks.
Mike Lodish? Yes, Mike Lodish. The former defensive lineman's 11-year career, mostly as a reserve, featured action in four consecutive Super Bowls as a Buffalo Bill (1991-94) and then two more as a Denver Bronco (1998, 1999). The first four he was on the losing side. The last two ended with championships.
"I'm the only guy who played in the game six times," Lodish told Yahoo Sports here this week, where he's retired from football, raising a 10-year-old son and, if you can believe it, selling gourmet peanut brittle made to the exacting standards of his mother's recipe.
Big Mike Lodish is about to have some company, though. Sunday's AFC championship game features two players who have appeared in five Super Bowls.
New England quarterback Tom Brady did them all with the Patriots (2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2012).
Indianapolis place kicker Adam Vinatieri has played in five also, four with New England (1997, 2002, 2004 and 2005) and one with the Colts (2007). Vinatieri was injured when Indy reached the game in 2010, so in terms of actual participation, he's stuck on five. (One of Lodish's old Buffalo teammates, wide receiver Don Beebe, was also on six Super Bowl teams but played in just three of the big games).
So the record is all Lodish until Brady or Vinatieri advance to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona on Feb. 1.
"I will have a partner in crime at the apex," Lodish said with a laugh.
Lodish is 47 and still looks like he could play a few downs. He spent his career as a backup, anonymous to most fans nationally. His 166 career regular-season games featured just 31 starts (and just one season as a full-time starter), 123 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
The fact he's about to be tied by someone who is arguably the best to ever play their position is kind of fun, he says.
The record book could be Lodish and … Brady?
"I think it's great," he said. "How could you not think it's great? It's been lonely for 15 years. In a selfish way, sure I want to be the only guy. But officially whoever it'll be will be tied with me.
"They are both great players," Lodish said. "They are both going to be Hall of Famers. The more the merrier."
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A year ago, Brady's Patriots made the AFC title game and Lodish wondered if his sole possession of the record would fall. Denver beat New England, though, and then Lodish thought maybe the Pats' run was over and the Brady threat was gone.
"I thought the bullet was dodged," he said.
Instead they just reloaded. Compounding the issues, the Colts upset Denver last week and here came 42-year-old Vinatieri, fully healthy, again.
So now the inevitable is inevitable. If anything, it's kind of cool. Score one for the everyman.
Lodish grew up here outside Detroit before heading to UCLA to play college ball and eventually getting selected by Buffalo in the 10th round of the 1990 draft.
When the Bills called to inform the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder, Lodish said, "What the hell took you so long?"
"So everybody laughed in the background on the speaker phone," he said. "My second thing was, 'Who is the defensive line coach?' and, 'Send me the playbook.'
"My mentality was, I am going to be a part of this team and there is nothing they can do to prevent it."
What the Bills found was the perfect team player. Lodish could play multiple positions along the defensive line. He never stopped working. He did his job. Maybe best of all, the rookie knew his place on that outrageously talented Bills team in 1990 that featured five future Hall of Fame players.
"I didn't take anything for granted because I had to earn every snap, every play, every second or I was going to be replaced," Lodish said.
That first season he found himself in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., with a Gulf War-inspired rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" courtesy of Whitney Houston. Buffalo lost on a heart-breaking wide right kick. By the time the Bills' remarkable four-year, four-Super Bowl-loss run ended, it felt commonplace to make it to the final game.
"We were a great team in Buffalo," Lodish said. "We just never won it all. We were a dynasty that should never be considered a dynasty."
In 1995 he wound up in Denver, as a backup, then a starter in 1996, only to get cut. He figured that was it when no one called prior to training camp. He was content.
"I was home, figuring out what I am going to do with my life," Lodish said. "I had a great career. I was happy."
Then in mid-August, Denver coach Mike Shanahan called saying due to injuries they needed him back. By 1998 the Broncos were back in the Super Bowl and Lodish was finally a winner.
"I think I appreciated it more," he said.
The next year they won it again. Two framed Bronco jerseys from those two seasons hang above the desk in his office here.
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Lodish retired after the 2000 season, a grinder who gave everything he had. As for all the Super Bowls, he's realistic. Jim Kelly and John Elway were the keys, not him.
"I was in the right place at the right time," he said. "I was very fortunate."
True, except if there was fortune in getting on the right team, Lodish did what was necessary to stay there, to find a role amid the stars, to become indispensible.
Hard work is a talent and he had it. He was reliable. He was durable, "I was never injured." He could do a lot of different things. He was never a headache. He was always prepared. Coaches and teammates loved having him around.
And, he notes, he wasn't very expensive, playing often for the lower end of NFL salaries. That was a factor too.
"I was cheap, I played like a starter and I kept my mouth shut," he said.
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Lodish said he plans on watching Sunday's game, which is somewhat uncommon. He doesn't follow football much. He grew up playing and watching hockey and didn't even take up football until high school.
Besides, he's busy with his son and his business. Three years ago, Lodish was watching a commercial for LegalZoom.com that featured a woman named Janet Long who took her mother's toffee recipe and turned it into a company.
Lodish was intrigued. For years people raved about his mother Patricia's peanut brittle, including a softer style recipe that Lodish jokingly calls, "dental friendly."
"Everyone who tried it asked, 'How can I buy some?'" he said.
He realized it isn't just delicious it's gluten free, vegan and could be made with all natural, almost exclusively Michigan ingredients. This was marketable.
So he called Long, who coincidentally also graduated from UCLA, and asked how she did it.
In 2011, Pat's Gourmet LLC was born. The man who played in the most Super Bowls ever is a would-be peanut brittle mogul.
Now you can find this hulking, shaved-head, one-time NFL defensive lineman working little stands at gourmet shops and upscale supermarkets around Southeast Michigan, trying to get shoppers to pause and try some "Lodish's Champion Brittle."
"It's going," he said. "It's moving."
It's a tough business; ultra competitive, with market share captured one store at a time. So this is Lodish bringing the same battling mentality to peanut brittle that got him to all those title games.
In the meantime, he is basking in the final days of his sole ownership of the Super Bowl record.
"The way I see it, I will still have the record," he said. "I just have to share it."
True. But what happens when whoever wins this year comes back next year? What if Tom Brady has two more Super Bowls in him, giving him seven total?
"This will be the problem," Lodish says with a big laugh. "It's going to kind of screw up my peanut brittle marketing concept."
The walking trivia answer lets out a big laugh. His start-up needs all the help it can get.
"'Just retire after this year, will you [Brady]," he said. "And buy my brittle. Give some to Gisele. She'll love it."