Bobby Carr doesn’t know who he’ll root for, but this Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs will mark a special day for Autauga Academy’s head football coach.
Two former players — O.J. Howard and Prince Tega Wanogho — will line up on different sidelines at Raymond James Stadium. Howard, who won a national title at Alabama in 2015 and was drafted 19th overall in the NFL Draft two years later, is on the Buccaneers’ injured reserve list after rupturing his Achilles in early-October. Wanogho, a former Auburn Tiger, was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 draft before latching on with the defending champs on a reserve/future contract last month.
While they may not see the field on the biggest stage, their mere appearance marks a milestone in Carr’s 24-year coaching career. The root of two Super Bowl journeys tie back together to Elmore County.
“It’s pretty neat,” Carr said. “… Both of them, they’re from different countries and different teams, but their character is impeccable.”
Howard graduated from Autauga Academy in 2013 while Carr was at Edgewood. Carr got to coach Howard at an all-star game his senior year and the two developed a deeper relationship when Carr took a job at Howard’s alma mater.
When Howard experienced racism at the school — members of the board wouldn’t allow Howard, a Black student, to bring his white girlfriend to prom — the team and program rallied around him. He still “loved his old school” and donated to the program regularly as his NFL career began.
“OJ is just as genuine as it gets,” Carr said, “… just has such a giving heart.”
Howard runs a yearly camp on Autauga’s campus. He’d hop in for practices, running routes with receivers.
Wanogho has been to a General’s practice a few times also, Carr said. Even though Wanogho is an Edgewood alum, if not for Carr, Wanogho would’ve never played the sport. After leaving his home country of Nigeria, Wanogho joined Edgewood’s basketball team when Carr saw him on the sidelines and convinced him to strap pads on, according to a 2019 ESPN profile.
The athleticism was apparent — Wanogho scored on a scoop-and-score on his first play — but it was Wanogho’s “glowing” personality that connected him with the campus community.
Carr still remembers coaching a baseball game in Wanogho’s senior year when he looked over and saw Wanogho in the stands, playing touch football with about two dozen 10-year-olds.
“That kid has got life figured out, man,” Carr remembered thinking.
In January, deep in the playoffs, Wanogho signed a contract with the Chiefs. Carr, who checks in with Wanogho regularly, reasoned that this Sunday’s contest between two former players was likely.
Carr wouldn’t hint at who he’s rooting for. He’s offensive-minded, he said, and admires the ingenuity of Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid. And Carr has always respected Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. No matter who wins, Carr can say he’s coached a winner of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“I’m just gonna kick back and watch the game. I’ll enjoy it,” Carr said.