From Super Bowls to super sweets

Mike Lodish George Rose/Getty Images

Here's a piece of football trivia guaranteed to stump your friends.

Who is the only person to play in six Super Bowls, the most in NFL history?

No, it's not Tom Brady -- he had a chance to play in his sixth this year but came up one win short. Fifteen others have played in five, including John Elway, Charles Haley and Bill Romanowski.

The answer? Mike Lodish, a former 10th-round draft pick who now sells his mom's peanut brittle for a living.


Now, that's super.

* * *

This past Sunday, Mike Lodish did the same thing millions of other Americans did. He sat at home in front of his television, watching the AFC and NFC championship games.

Lodish was rooting hard for the Denver Broncos to beat Brady's New England Patriots -- but not just because Lodish once played for the Broncos.

His legacy, or at least a big part of it, was on the line.

"It's nice to be a part of a championship team, and it's nice to be a part of history," Lodish said Thursday by phone. "But you never want to get knocked off the top."

Lodish didn't appear destined for the top when he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1990. He had played at UCLA and made the All-Pac-10 team, but he was an undersized nose tackle -- 6-foot-3, 270 pounds -- selected 265th overall.

The Bills liked Lodish but still passed him over for another nose tackle in the seventh round, Fred DeRiggi from Syracuse. When Lodish was still available three rounds later, they snatched him up, too.

"I was pissed off that I got picked so late, and I had a chip on my shoulder," Lodish said. "Just like when I was in eighth grade and my math teacher tells me, 'You'll never play at Brother Rice [High School].' If somebody tells me that I'm not gonna do something, I'm gonna do it."

Lodish beat out DeRiggi, whose NFL career spanned all of two games. Lodish played in 12 games his rookie season alone, recording his first two NFL sacks.

Bill Polian, the longtime NFL general manager who now works for ESPN, was the Bills' GM when Lodish was drafted. "I think of Mike and I think of the ultimate warrior," Polian said Friday. "He gave you his best through thick and thin. He never seemed to be injured -- or if he was, he never told anyone. He was as tough and as professional as they come -- the kind of guy you want on your football team.

"Everyone can use a Mike Lodish."

Lodish got to play in his first Super Bowl that very season -- Super Bowl XXV. The Bills were upset by the New York Giants, 20-19, but he still remembers that year fondly.

"Making it my first year -- on a Buffalo Bills team in 1990 that I think was the best team in the world that year, even though we lost to the Giants -- that was the greatest accomplishment that me, personally, I ever felt in my career," Lodish said. "That was the greatest feeling that I had, when I got a chance to call my parents and tell them it's official, I'm a professional now."

Lodish was with the Bills four more years, and three more Super Bowls. He played in 62 of a possible 64 regular-season games, with 12 starts. When he became a free agent after the 1994 season, he moved on to Denver, where Greg Robinson -- his former defensive line coach at UCLA -- was the defensive coordinator.

With the Broncos, Lodish got his one and only chance to be a full-time starter, in 1996. He also got to play in two more Super Bowls, and got to be on the winning side for a change -- with a big assist from one of those five-timers mentioned above.

"When John Elway did the helicopter and went for it [in Super Bowl XXXII], and sold his body out and said I'm getting it for my boys and me and the city of Denver, that play probably had the biggest impact on me," Lodish said. "That's the play that I remember the most, because of John Elway's unselfishness. I think he was [near] 40 years old at the time, and he was playing against a Green Bay defense that had some killers out there; they had some studs. And they rocked him pretty good, but he got up and he said the hell with it, I'm winning this game."

Despite playing in six Super Bowls, Lodish couldn't recall a particularly memorable play of his own.

"Being at nose tackle, there's not too many game-changing plays that happen," he said. "I didn't get a sack, or get an interception as a lineman and waddle into the end zone, or do anything crazy like that. … Just holding down my A-gap, making a play or two inside that A-gap, that's kind of like what I was paid to do."

* * *

Lodish retired three years later, after the 2000 season -- with just 8.5 career sacks, but two championship rings and one very significant distinction. He spent the next three years coaching at his old high school and doing radio and television work. After that, he spent several years as a contract adviser with the NFL Players Association and worked in sales for a communications support services company.

But he had an itch to do something on his own, and he finally decided to scratch it -- with a little inspiration from a television commercial and a little help from his mom.

"Janet Long ironically went to UCLA, and so did her two sisters, and she's doing very well, she's got a wonderful business. She sells an upscale toffee," Lodish said. "My mother and I saw a TV commercial for, and we saw Janet on there as one of the customers of LegalZoom that they picked and chose to tell her story because she's so successful.

"I said, 'Mom, let's take your peanut brittle recipe to market. … If she can do it, why can't we?'"

Family and friends had been raving about Patricia Lodish's peanut brittle for years, and, in September 2011, Mike began putting together Pat's Gourmet LLC (named after his mom) -- the company that produces Lodish's Champion Brittle, available in three flavors: peanut crunch, chocolate drizzle and dark chocolate drizzle.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but you can guess the reason behind the name.

Mike is the president and CEO, but he doesn't just sit behind a desk. "I'm the guy that's doing the sales, I'm the guy that's doing the operations, I'm the guy that's doing the accounting -- I'm the whole kit and caboodle, the whole nine yards," Lodish said.

Lodish's Champion Brittle -- based in Michigan, where Lodish was born and still resides -- is available in grocery stores in five states and beyond that via its website. He recently struck a deal with Harry & David, known nationwide for its gourmet gift baskets, and hopes to continue expanding in the years to come.

"My ultimate goal with the company is to become a national peanut crunch candy," Lodish said.

But he has already accomplished another goal.

"My mother is still living. And she's been doing great, she's overcome some tremendous obstacles in the last seven years with her health," Lodish said. "I just wanted my mom to know, I created this to honor her and to give her something back."

* * *

Lodish lives in Birmingham, Mich. -- a suburb of Detroit. He's a single dad with a 10-year-old son and sounds very happy with his post-football life.

He hasn't played in the NFL in more than a decade. But he does have some words of wisdom for the Seattle Seahawks and the Broncos, who will be arriving in New York this weekend.

After all, who is more qualified to dispense Super Bowl advice than the man who has played in more of them than anyone else?

"Keep it in perspective -- this is another game; don't get too into the hype of it," Lodish said. "I think the teams that can focus and be disciplined the best during the week and not go out and party, I think that that's a huge ingredient to giving yourself an opportunity to win."

Lodish doesn't watch a lot of football anymore. He's more into hockey, his first love, which he still plays competitively. But, come Super Bowl Sunday, he'll be in front of his television, rooting for the Broncos. And next season, he'll be rooting against Brady and the Patriots again.

It's nothing personal, Tom. Just business.

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