UCLA's Akeem Ayers earns his shot at a Super Bowl championship

UCLA's Akeem Ayers earns his shot at a Super Bowl championship
New England linebacker Akeem Ayers celebrates after intercepting a pass against the San Diego Chargers on Dec. 7. (Todd Warshaw / Getty Images)

For those turned off by the LeGarrette Blount Super Bowl story -- hey, who doesn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling from a guy who quit on his team? -- the tale of New England linebacker Akeem Ayers might be more to your taste.

The Patriots acquired both during the season, and both have been a significant pickups. The difference is that Blount walked out on the Pittsburgh Steelers in November, while it was Ayers' former team, the Tennessee Titans, that gave up on him in October.

Ayers was a budding star with the Titans. The former UCLA star was a second-round pick in 2011 and spent three seasons as a starter. Injuries took their toll in 2013 and he was slow returning from off-season knee surgeries.

The Titans moved on and moved Ayers out. He was traded to the Patriots, along with a seventh-round draft pick, for a sixth-round pick.

It was a sweet deal … for Ayers, who has thrived in New England's system and finds himself in the Super Bowl for the first time.

"I watched every Super Bowl," Ayers said. "I'm finally going to play in it, so I'm excited. It's really just fun and a good opportunity. A lot of people really never get the opportunity. People play years and years and never got a chance to play in the Super Bowl. I'm just trying to take advantage of it and just really enjoy every moment that we are here. You never know when you're going to get the opportunity again."

It was an opportunity that appears to be out of the Titans' reach at the moment. Tennessee had a 2-14  record this season.

“From where I started the year, it wasn’t a high possibility for it,
” Ayers said. “I
t doesn’t matter what team you’re on at the beginning of the season, you’re very optimistic, everybody believes they’re going to the Super Bowl, but as the season went on you see things change. Once I got here, I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got a chance to possibly go to a Super Bowl,’ and that’s why I’m excited to be where I’m at now.”