While many eyes will be on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his quest to add a sixth ring to his already impressive resume, the man protecting his blind side Sunday can also add his name to an exclusive list. Should the Patriots - four-point favorites as of Monday afternoon – defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, left tackle Nate Solder would become just the fourth former Colorado Buffaloes player to claim his third championship ring.
A tight end out of Buena Vista, Colorado, Solder signed to play for head coach Dan Hawkins and the Buffaloes in 2006. After red-shirting that fall, he caught three passes for 50 yards in his first full season in Boulder. In-between 2007 and 2008, the 6’7, 230-pound tight end was asked to bulk up in preparation for a shift to offensive tackle. Solder won a starting spot on the offensive line in 2008, a position he would occupy for the next three years. His final season in Boulder, the 6’8, 300-plus pound offensive tackle was named the Big XII Offensive Lineman of the Year and one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, awarded annually to college football’s best interior lineman.
Following his stellar career at CU, Solder was taken 17th overall by New England in the 2011 NFL Draft, just the second offensive lineman selected behind USC’s Tyron Smith (9th overall, Dallas Cowboys). Now in his seventh season with the Patriots, the 29-year old is seeking to become the fourth different CU player to adorn three Super Bowl rings. Wide receiver Cliff Branch (CU 1970-’71) was the first to accomplish the feat by winning his third title with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1984. Offensive tackle Tom Ashworth (CU 1997-’00) and inside linebacker Ted Johnson (CU 1991-’94) were a part of the Patriots 2002, 2004 and 2005 Super Bowl winning teams.