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Bay State prepared Pack’s OC

Before Green Bay, Philbin spent time at Harvard, NU

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / February 2, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Joe Philbin needed a minute to remember all of his family members back in Massachusetts.

The Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator was born in Springfield and makes it back to the area a couple of times a year to visit family. As he prepares the Packers for Super Bowl XLV this week, he took a moment to reflect on the moments in his career that helped him reach this point.

Some of those early chances were in Massachusetts. Philbin was offensive coordinator at Northeastern (1995-96) and Harvard (1997-98). He is in his eighth season with the Packers. He joined the organization in 2003 as an assistant line coach and eventually was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007.

“I had a great experience [in Massachusetts],’’ Philbin said. “It was a challenge because the living expenses in Boston were significant and we had five children at the time.

“My wife, Diane, was a nurse and I was coaching. It was a busy period of our lives. But I absolutely loved Northeastern. It was great. You could smell the sausage there on Parsons Field.

“[At Harvard] Tim Murphy has done a fantastic job there. I always tell him he would be crazy if he took another job because it’s just a great place to be. I loved every minute of it.’’

Philbin is leading an offense that shows its versatility with a variety of wide receiver sets that spread the field for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In each of the last four seasons, the Packers offense has ranked among the top 10 in scoring.

In the playoffs, the production has continued to be impressive, as the team set a franchise record for points in a postseason game with its 48-21 victory against the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.

Little guy, big news Back in 2006, when Packers running back Brandon Jackson was churning out yards for Nebraska, he heard about a tailback making a name for himself at Chadron State, in the far northwest part of the state.

Danny Woodhead was doing big things at Chadron State. The future Patriot won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in Division 2 in 2006 and 2007.

“I knew of him, but I didn’t know him,’’ Jackson said. “Then when they were talking about him [in the NFL] and they had the story on him, I said to myself, ‘Ah OK. I know that little guy.’

“He won, like, the Heisman for that level. He’s a good player. He’s a small guy with a big heart, and that’s to show that if you have a dream and you have a big heart, you can go the distance.’’

Old Boys network Packers safety Charlie Peprah will have a special guest with an international connection at Sunday’s game. Peprah’s father is flying in from Ghana to watch his son play in his first Super Bowl.

“It’s going to mean a lot,’’ Peprah said. “Growing up, he took me to practice and watched my games without knowing this would be the outcome. This is special.’’

Peprah grew up in Fort Worth and rooted for the Cowboys in those days. He had the chance to attend a Thanksgiving game in 1993 and remembered crying after the loss against the Dolphins.

“That’s how big of a Cowboys fan I was,’’ he said.

Even with the childhood connection to his favorite team, Peprah said he wouldn’t give up his current situation.

“My friends and I talked about me playing in a Cowboys uniform but I will take the green and yellow any day,’’ he said.

Pouncey remains positive Maurkice Pouncey still expects to play in the Super Bowl. “Most definitely,’’ the Steelers’ injured center said. “I feel positive right now.’’

Pouncey is dealing with a high left ankle sprain, suffered in Pittsburgh’s 24-19 victory over the Jets in the AFC championship game. He was off crutches at media day after needing them to walk down the steps from the team’s charter flight, but still has a bulky walking boot on his left foot.

“I’m walking around pretty good today,’’ the rookie Pro Bowl selection said. “I couldn’t do anything in the cast. Now that I’m in the walking boot, there’s a lot that I can do now. I’m icing it at night, and I’ve got to elevate it real good.’’

Pouncey did not practice last week, and coach Mike Tomlin has said Pouncey is “not on a running clock’’ until today — the team’s first practice before the Super Bowl.

Tipping the scales Casey Hampton is listed at 325 pounds. The way his jersey stretches tautly across his biceps (and belly) suggests the real number is north of that. Asked for his actual weight, the Steelers nose tackle says, “It’s 300 and change. Lots of change.’’

Hampton is one of 26 players on the Green Bay and Pittsburgh Super Bowl rosters who tip the scale at more than 300 pounds — an eye-popping number made even more startling when you put it in historical context.

Green Bay’s first Super Bowl team, 45 years ago, didn’t have a guy heavier than 265 pounds.

Meanwhile, Mean Joe Greene, at 275 pounds, was the biggest player on the Steelers when they won their second of six championships in 1976.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com; material from wire services was used in this report.

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