Andrew Whitworth is the oldest player in the NFL with Tom Brady riding off into the sunset, the first 40-year-old to start at left tackle in NFL history. When Whitworth joined the Los Angeles Rams five years ago after 11 excellent seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, the odds were greatly unlikely he would get to a Super Bowl -- longer yet that he would face his former team in one.
The Rams were looking to change the culture under Sean McVay while the Bengals were beginning to tear down a roster that made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons (and failed to win a playoff game). At 36 years old, Whitworth --- who was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year on Thursday -- still had plenty of games left in the tank, coming off consecutive Pro Bowl seasons.
Five seasons in Los Angeles and Whitworth is still at the top of his game. Whitworth allowed five sacks, two quarterback hits, and 16 pressures in 926 snaps this season. His pass-blocking grade of 90.7 (via Pro Football Focus) is his highest since the 2016 season, his final year with the Bengals.
Now a fan favorite in Los Angeles, Whitworth still has immense ties to the Bengals organization. He would obviously like a Super Bowl ring for himself, but there will be no love lost if the franchise that drafted him won its first title Sunday.
"I can't even come up with the words how cool and how special it is for me. My heart is with both organizations," Whitworth said on the Rams squaring off against the Bengals in the Super Bowl. "I put my heart and soul into both places. I couldn't believe in the people in both places more. My kids and my family will always go to Cincinnati Bengals games and we'll go to Los Angeles Rams games when I'm retired."
What's incredibly rare is to find a player that spent over a decade with one organization play their former team in a Super Bowl. Whitworth is believed to be the only player in NFL history to accomplish this feat.
LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long won a title with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI (2016 season), then faced the Patriots as members of the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII (2017 season). Their careers with the Patriots weren't nearly as long as Whitworth's with the Bengals. Ryan Succop faced his former team in Super Bowl LV last season, when the kicker of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs. Succop kicked for the Chiefs for five years before landing in Tampa Bay after six seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
Whitworth is actually older than both head coaches in this game. Rams head coach Sean McVay will be 36 years and 20 days old while Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will be 38 years and 279 days old on Sunday. Whitworth will be 40 years and 63 days old on Super Bowl LVI.
"I'm just taking it all in. It's like a storybook," Whitworth said. "To have this opportunity at my age with what could be my last game and to be in two places where you accomplished what you have and been such a significant part of -- it couldn't be more special to me and my entire family."
Now the senior member of NFL players, will a Super Bowl title be enough to force Whitworth to call it a career? That storybook ending is one win away from reality.
"What a cool ending it could be. Two places that I poured my heart and soul into, that mean the world to me. I couldn't be happier for Cincinnati to be where they're at and happier for us," Whitworth said. "If this is the end, what a heck of a way to end it."