Just two years ago East Boston native Jermaine Wiggins was a key contributor on the 2001 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. A mild producer during the regular season, Wiggins nearly doubled his production with 14 receptions for 89 yards in the postseason including key catches in wins over the Raiders and the Rams.
Now, after being released by New England following the Super Bowl and a short stop in Indianapolis in 2002, the 6-2, 260-pound tight end out of Georgia has a settled in with the Panthers. And much like two years ago, Wiggins is member of an underdog team looking for the upset in the biggest game in all of sports.
"It's similar moods but it is two different teams as far as players are concerned," Wiggins said of the 2001 Patriots and 2003 Panthers underdog reputations. "We know that's just the media talking. We don't worry about that nonsense. We just go out there and play the game. That's what the most important thing is. If we had listened to the media we wouldn't have beaten Dallas, we wouldn't have beaten St. Louis and we wouldn't have beaten Philly. So we go out there and we play. We know we can beat any team that we play on Sunday. So that's how we look at it.
"We could be using it, but we just know we can beat anybody. We don't even look at that. We go out there and play and our team is good enough to beat anybody."
And while Wiggins said it was rather difficult being sent packing by the team he had grown up rooting for following the Super Bowl glory, he realizes that it is part of life in the NFL.
"It bothered me that they let me go after I felt like I did a lot," Wiggins said. "But like I tell everybody I know how this business is. You can't put your chips in every hand because things are going to happen. That's the way I look at it. I just go out there and whatever team I am on I do what I can do."
Wiggins also knows that his contributions to the New England franchise will always remain in the record books of the team's first world championship season.
"It's going to go down in history and that's the only thing that matters to me and I have a ring and that's the most important thing," Wiggins said. "But right now I am trying to go down in history with a new team and I am trying to get another ring."
But even though he is fighting for a new city now and a new team, Wiggins will always consider himself the local boy from East Boston that Patriots fans rooted on in 2001.
"I get back there all the time," Wiggins said. "After the season is over I go see my mother and see all my friends. I go there often. They are pulling for me. Nobody else but me and the Panthers, that's what they are pulling for. That's how it is.
"East Boston is the only place to be from. If you are going to be from anywhere, be from East Boston."