By Joseph Santoliquito


PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Rich Gannon, the 18-year NFL veteran who was the 2002 NFL MVP while with the Oakland Raiders, had a chance to be part of something special on Thursday, revisiting the old halls on Girard Avenue again at St. Joseph’s Prep.

Gannon, who played at Prep before going on to Delaware and then the NFL, presented his alma mater with a golden football, in conjunction with Old Spice and the NFL’s Super Bowl High School Honor Roll program, commemorating Super Bowl 50. It involves each NFL player that played in a Super Bowl to visit and award their high school alma mater with a golden ball.

“It’s great getting a chance to come back and see some familiar faces and friends,” said Gannon, who threw for 28,743 yards, 180 touchdowns and completed 2,533 passes in an NFL career that spanned from 1987 to 2004. “It’s amazing what this program has been able to accomplish winning back-to-back state championships, and their coach, Gabe Infante, has done such a terrific job.

28 Oct 2001: Quarterback Rich Gannon #12 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass behind the blocking of Steve Wisniewski #76 of the Oakland Raiders during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Raiders win, 20-10 over the Eagles. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT

28 Oct 2001: Quarterback Rich Gannon #12 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass behind the blocking of Steve Wisniewski #76 of the Oakland Raiders during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Raiders win, 20-10 over the Eagles. DIGITAL IMAGE Credit: Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT

“The kids are buying into the program, and it’s so different than when I played here. These guys travel all over the country. They play in Florida, New Jersey, and Western Pennsylvania. I think it’s been great for recruiting, and kids not only want to come to the school because it’s one of the best preparatory schools in the country, but the athletic program is top notch.”

Gannon, who resides in Minnesota, still maintains a strong bond to Prep. He said he keeps track of the Hawks through the internet and his message to the class at Prep was to appreciate what they have going to school like that.

“Kids come out of this school and they become difference makers,” said Gannon, who led the Raiders to the 2002 Super Bowl. “It’s about giving back and making a difference in positive ways. I think it’s a great place and the alumnus here is so strong.

“My message is to challenge these kids about taking advantage of the opportunities that they have here. I want them to know how important Philadelphia is to me and St. Joe’s Prep and to thank them. Here I am, I graduated in 1983 and here I’m back in 2015 to present the school with a golden football, go into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (Thursday night) and on Sunday call the Eagles-Dolphins game.

“Who thought one day I’d be calling Eagles’ games? I think it’s turned out to be a pretty cool deal.”