PORTSMOUTH (WAVY) – On Sunday, the man who built the Old Dominion football program from the ground up will watch two of his former players in the Super Bowl.

“When I turn the TV on and I see them, part of me says, those are my guys,” said Bobby Wilder, the Monarchs’ head coach from their first season in 2009 to 2019.

Zach Pascal, ODU’s all-time leading receiver, is now a receiver for the Eagles. He’s also teammates with long-snapper and fellow ODU alum Rick Lovato, who won a Super Bowl title with the Eagles back in 2018.

“These guys (Pascal and Lovato) have been kicked, they’ve been cut, they’ve been told you’re not good enough, they’ve been told pack your bags, turn in your playbook, and they never gave up,” said Wilder.

Lovato played in all 50 games, from his true freshman to senior season at ODU, and never misplaced a snap. After graduating, he was cut from Chicago Bears and all but gave up football, even going back to work at his father’s pizza shop in New Jersey before one phone call changed the course of his career and his life.

It was the Packers, who were in desperate need of a long-snapper after losing their starter to an injury. Lovato finished the 2015 season in Green Bay, found his way to the Eagles, and the rest is history.

“The definition of Rick Lovato is never give up,” said Wilder.

Pascal was cut from the (then) Washington Redskins, the Tennessee Titans, then finally found a home for four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He signed with the Eagles just last offseason.

Wilder has been out of coaching since leaving ODU in 2019, and now runs the Bobby Wilder Passing Academy in Norfolk. If he could tell his two former players one thing before the biggest game of their lives, it would be, “The same thing I told them the entire time they were at Old Dominion; go have fun.”