Lilja Returns to Super Sunday

Editor's Note: The following story originally ran in K-State Official Sports Report on Friday morning and is the second of a three-part series on former Kansas State Wildcats who will be playing in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday when Indianapolis plays New Orleans match talents in Miami.

By Mark Janssen - Official Sports Report

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Ryan Lilja hopes that experience will be the X-factor.

"I think we have 25 players that we have on our roster who have played in a Super Bowl, and that does make a difference," said the starting left guard of the Indianapolis Colts. "It's different. The re's just not a way to explain all the hoop-la that goes into Super Bowl week. Hopefully, having 25 guys who have been there will be a big advantage."

Lilja and the Colts will be making their second appearance in the last four years as Indy defeated Chicago, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.

"We'll be staying in the same hotel, using the same car rentals, and Peyton (Manning) said he's taking the offensive linemen out to dinner in the same restaurant as we did the first time," Lilja said of the team's return to Miami. "And, we're hoping for the same result."

Lilja says that Super Bowl week flies by with all the media events, practices and mingling with family members.

"It's tough. When it's your first time you want to soak it all in because you don't know if you'll ever be back," Lilja said. "But that also means it's easy to lose focus. You have to approach it as a business trip . but that's tough to do the first time."

Lilja, a native of Kansas City, said his travel party will number "15, plus a 19-month old" and he's even picking up the tab, which includes game tickets priced at $900.

"My fianc� is coordinating everything," Lilja said. Laughing, he added, "I want them to have fun and see Miami, but I'm not sure how much I'll be involved. I'm not the most charismatic guy by the end of the week."

Lilja's career started as a 2004 undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs. He was soon released and snapped up by the Colts and soon was a factor in the offensive line at left guard protecting Manning. Prior to the 2008 season, he signed to a five-year $20 million deal, but that was later restructured after three knee operations sidelined him for the entire 2008 season.

Of Manning, Lilja said, "He's business . a competitor. He wants to do his absolute best on ev ery single play. Talk about being critical. He holds himself to the highest of standards. No one works harder and no one spends more time in the film room than he does."

The Colts were racing toward a perfect season this year, but at 14-0, the decision by management was to pull starters in order to prevent injuries and be refreshed for the playoff season. The result was a pair of losses and a final regular season record of 14-2.

"That wasn't an easy decision. But we had smart people making that decision and it was the right thing to do," Lilja said. "Those are people who want the same thing that we want as players, which is a Super Bowl championship. We would have liked to have played to win, but players don't make that decision. We're in the Super Bowl. That's what matters."

Now what matters is earning a second Super Bowl ring.

"With the salaries of today, the difference between the winner's share and the lo ser's share . I think its $80,000 and $40,000 . is minimal," Lilja said. "Guys want titles. Guys want championships. We have 25 guys who know how great it is to have a ring. Younger guys making the minimum ($300,000) may want the cash, but that ring is a pretty cool thing."