(AP) - Two good friends who happen to be NFL coaches are already front-and-center in this Super Bowl, and kickoff is still two weeks away.
Lovie Smith became the first black head coach to make it all the way to the NFL’s marquee game Sunday when his Chicago Bears won the NFC championship.
About four hours later, his pal and mentor, Tony Dungy, joined him there when his Indianapolis Colts took the AFC title.
For the first time in the big game's 41-year history not one, but two black head coaches will be on the sidelines.
“It means a lot,” Dungy said after a 38-34 victory over the New England Patriots. "I'm very proud to represent African-American coaches."
Las Vegas oddsmakers installed Indianapolis as a one-touchdown favorite in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium.
Smith earned his trip when the Bears (15-3) beat the New Orleans Saints 39-14.
“I’ll feel even better to be the first black coach to hold up the world championship trophy,” Smith said.
It won't be easy, though, especially the way Peyton Manning and the Colts (15-4) are playing.
Manning has been dogged for years by critics who said his greatness was diminished by the fact he couldn't win a big game. After leading his team back from an 18-point deficit, the Colts quarterback finally has the chance — on football’s biggest stage.
“It sounds good,” a beaming Manning said. “It really does.”