Former Arkansas football players help 49ers, Lions punch their tickets to NFC Championship

Former Arkansas football players Frank Ragnow (left), Dre Greenlaw (middle) and Dan Skipper (right) are shown during 2024 NFL Playoff games. (AP Photos by Rick Osentoski, Jed Jacobsohn and Vera Nieuwenhuis)

FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas Razorbacks will be in key roles on both sides of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif.

Detroit Lions offensive linemen Frank Ragnow and Dan Skipper punched their tickets to the title game with Sunday’s 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Former Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw sealed the San Francisco 49ers’ 24-21 win over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night with his second interception of the game.

Ragnow earned lots of praise from NBC broadcasters Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth for returning from a leg injury that took him out of the game momentarily and for his work against Tampa Bay nose tackle Vita Vea.

The 6-10 Skipper has become a folk hero of sorts in Detroit for his work as a “reporting as eligible” extra blocker. The Lions had a potential game-winning two-point conversion against the Dallas Cowboys called back because of confusion resulting from Skipper and Taylor Decker attempting to report as eligible. Lions fans at Ford Field roared with approval when referee announced Skipper, “No. 70 reporting as eligible” on Sunday.

Greenlaw, the former Fayetteville High standout and 2015 Freshman All-American Razorback was not the first player chosen to speak from the podium by the 49ers communications staff on Saturday, a fact that unanimous All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner recognized when he faced reporters with a big smile at Levi’s Stadium.

“I know, I’m not the linebacker you’re looking for,” Warner said to kick off his interview session.

Greenlaw became the first San Francisco player with two interceptions in a playoff game since Eric Davis had a pair of picks in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas in 1995. He was the first linebacker to accomplish that feat since Tommy Polley of the St. Louis Rams in 2002.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Warner had talked to Greenlaw about returning an interception for a score prior to the kickoff.

“I was just trying to get it for you dawg,” Greenlaw yelled to Warner while standing near the entrance to the interview room, the Chronicle reported. “I told you I was going to get one.”

Greenlaw’s teammates gave him loads of grief for not getting down with the ball after sealing the game with the Packers out of timeouts.

Greenlaw avoided several tackles, weaved back and forth and ran a long distance with both of his interceptions. NFL’s Next Gen Stats calculated Greenlaw’s total yardage covered on the returns at 101 yards, though he only brought them back a total of 25 yards.

Achilles tendinitis made Greenlaw questionable to play prior to the game, as it had limited him in practice for the last two weeks. He met with trainers daily at 6:30 a.m. for therapy leading into the game.

“Those guys got me feeling good enough to go out and play,” Greenlaw told the Chronicle.

Greenlaw made three of the biggest defensive plays against Green Bay. The 6-foot, 230-pounder also teamed with defensive tackle Arik Armstead to stop a Jordan Love quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-1 at the San Francisco 14 earlier in the game.

Ragnow was interviewed with quarterback Jared Goff by Melissa Stark on the NBC postgame report.

Asked how the Lions toughed out the win, Ragnow said, “I just love my guys and when you play with guys like [Goff] and all those guys in our locker room, they’re going to find a way.”

Ragnow was also asked what Coach Dan Campbell means to the Lions.

“He’s the best leader I’ve been around, by far,” Ragnow said. “Just authentic. Loves his guys. Same guy every single day. I can’t say enough about the man.”

Stark also asked Ragnow what the win meant for Detroit, a city starving for success for a Lions franchise that has been mostly down for decades since its 1957 NFL Championship.

“It’s incredible,” Ragnow said. “It’s hard to put into words, but with this guy [Goff] at the helm, we’re not done yet.”

Skipper (a Razorback from 2013-16), Ragnow (2014-17) and Greenlaw (2015-18) signed with Arkansas in consecutive classes from 2013-15 under Coach Brett Bielema. Current Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman had Ragnow and Skipper on the same offensive lines from 2014-15 when he was a Hogs’ assistant coach.