After an exhilarating end to the 2022 NFL season — which saw the Kansas City Chiefs crowned Super Bowl LVII champions over the Philadelphia Eagles — here's a look back at how every active Penn men’s football alumni performed on the biggest stage.
Justin Watson — wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
At this point, it’s time we acknowledge that winning the Super Bowl is in Watson’s DNA. The former Penn wide receiver and Wharton graduate recently won his second Vince Lombardi Trophy — this time with the Kansas City Chiefs.
During his time as a Quaker, Watson was a three-time All-Ivy selection and a two-time Ivy League champion. Watson is also Penn's all-time leading receiver in receptions, yards, receiving touchdowns, and all-purpose yards.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Watson with the 144th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bridgeville, Pa. native played a considerable amount of games for the Buccaneers but was not on the team’s active roster for Super Bowl LV. Coincidentally, Tampa Bay beat the Chiefs in that game and Watson enjoyed a victory over the team that would eventually help him collect his next championship ring.
After sustaining a knee injury, Watson was released by Tampa Bay and signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs on Feb. 5, 2022. He finished the season with 15 receptions for 315 yards and two touchdowns. In Super Bowl LVII, Watson caught two passes for 18 yards. It’s fair to say that he had an enjoyable 2022 season.
Greg Van Roten — guard, Buffalo Bills
Van Roten has found a consistent role as an offensive guard in the NFL. Van Roten — who played at Penn for the 2008-11 seasons — wasn't selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. He played in 10 games for Green Bay over the course of a year before being released and signing with the Seattle Seahawks. Van Roten moved between different NFL and Canadian Football League teams over the next few years of his career before eventually becoming a full-time starter on the Carolina Panthers in 2018. In 2020, he signed a three-year deal with the New York Jets and remained with them until he was picked up by the Buffalo Bills in the 2022 NFL offseason.
Van Roten appeared in 16 games for the Bills during the 2022 season and was utilized as both a guard and a center. The Bills were eliminated from the playoffs in the AFC divisional round matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. It remains to be seen whether Van Roten will resign with the Bills or move on to another organization this offseason.
Kevin Stefanski — head coach, Cleveland Browns
During his time at Penn, Stefanski excelled as a defensive back and was named Quaker freshman of the year in 2000. Over his next few seasons playing at Franklin Field, Stefanski received All-Ivy recognition twice. In addition to his individual successes, he was part of the dominant 2003 Penn team that went undefeated — coached by Al Bagnoli.
After going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Stefanski decided to go down the coaching career path. He stepped in as Penn’s assistant director of football operations during the 2005 season before being given an opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings. From 2006 to 2019, Stefanski worked his way up the Vikings' coaching staff and took on several different roles before culminating in his selection as the team’s offensive coordinator. In 2020, the Cleveland Browns hired the Penn alumni as their head coach and he has been with the organization ever since. Stefanski led Cleveland to its first 10-win record since 2007 during his first year as head coach — prompting him to win the 2020 AP NFL Coach of the Year Award.
This season, the Browns finished last in the competitive AFC North Division with a record of 7-10 as quarterback questions trailed the team throughout the year. Stefanski's contract with Cleveland expires in 2025, but for now, it looks like he will be locked in with this organization for the foreseeable future.
Prince Emili — defensive tackle, New Orleans Saints
It’s fair to say that Emili had a successful collegiate career at Penn. On top of winning the Ivy League Championship in his freshman year, the defensive tackle out of New York was also named first team All-Ivy in both 2019 and 2021. Following his senior season — in which he racked up 49 tackles and 13 tackles for losses — Emili was ready to test himself in the NFL.
Emili ended up being signed as an undrafted free agent by Buffalo Bills after the 2022 NFL Draft. Early in the 2022 season, Emili was active for two games and was able to get three assists on tackles and one pass deflection in the Bills’ week 4 victory over the Ravens. But after splitting time between the practice squad and active roster, Emili was released by the Bills in early October and eventually signed to the New Orleans Saints' practice squad in mid-November. As of January 2023, the former Quaker tackle is under a reserve contract with the Saints and looks to solidify his place as an active member of an NFL roster.
Overall, Penn football was represented fairly well on the toughest stage in 2022. It’s difficult to predict what the future has in store for most of these names, but it’s fair to say that they have most of their careers still ahead of them. It will be exciting to see how the next generation of Penn football alumni impact the NFL in the coming years.