IRVING, Texas -- John Kuhn wasn't sure if his days as a participant in the Dover-West York football rivalry would ever be matched.
"We used to battle it out," the former Eagle said of the York County showdowns in the late 1990s.
However, Sunday is sure to rise above all those Route 74 battles for the former Dover standout.
Kuhn will play a key role in Super Bowl XLV as a member of the Green Bay Packers. The running back will face his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Cowboys Stadium, the venue his childhood-favorite Dallas Cowboys call home.
"It's pretty surreal. It's almost like a storybook," Kuhn said Wednesday.
Kuhn's affinity for York County is obvious.
"That's where I got my roots. I started playing little league football back there in Tri-Town and then Dover Middle School, Dover High School," he said. "I still have a lot of friends back home. I know I have a lot of people rooting for me and supporting me. I'm very thankful."
The only thing that didn't rub off on Kuhn was cheering for an obvious NFL team.
"Our area is full of (Baltimore) Ravens, (Philadelphia) Eagles and Steelers fans," Kuhn said. "I didn't pick any of them."
Kuhn comes "home" to York County in the offseason (both sides of his family still reside there) but the folks in Green Bay, Wis., and Packers fans across the country may just kidnap this blue-collar football player. The Cheeseheads have adopted Kuhn as one of their new favorite players. To them, he's simply known as "Kuuuuuuuhn!"
Kuhn doesn't carry the football 20 times a game, but he's productive -- second on team with six total touchdowns -- and he's been versatile and dependable during the Packers' injury-riddled 2010 season.
The football-savvy supporters around Lambeau Field have taken notice.
"I am very appreciative that the fans have taken well to me, it's been a lot of fun," said Kuhn, a product of NCAA Division II Shippensburg University who went undrafted in 2005. "I think it has a lot to do with the road that I have traveled, and they appreciate a guy that is willing to put in the extra work to try and get to at least an everyday active roster."
He first noticed the fans' unique "Kuuuuuuuhn" call when he touched the ball midway through last season. The practice has spread far beyond Wisconsin. This year, Packers games in road venues were often marked by the chant.
"It's cool," he said. "It's something that's pretty special. It shows how well the Green Bay fans travel."
Kuhn had trouble staying in the NFL during his first two years as a professional with the Steelers and looked destined to play Arena Football.
But the 28-year-old never went indoors
"It was a heck of a journey, and there were a lot of ups-and-downs," the 6-foot, 250-pounder said. "Getting cut several times, being at home, and not being on the roster and then being back. Just trying to make the best of it, and always staying positive and working your hardest to get where you want to go and that is what I've always tried to do."
Kuhn's national coming-out party came in back-to-back December games this season. One week after he nearly helped the Packers -- with backup quarterback Matt Flynn -- upset New England, Kuhn was the star again in a must-win game against the New York Giants in Week 16.
He scored a career-high three touchdowns -- two rushing, one receiving -- and was awarded what head coach Mike McCarthy believes is an unprecedented two game balls (one for offense and another for his work on special teams).
"It's my favorite game; not just because of the stats," Kuhn said. "It was a must win and we didn't really mess around. We scored 45 points and kind of blew them out a little bit. It was fun to play big in a big game."
Kuhn saw an increase in playing time with the Week 1 injury to starting running back Ryan Grant. Kuhn helped Brandon Jackson fill the hole left with Grant's absence. He returned to his more normal role of fullback with the emergence of James Starks late in the season.
Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin says one thing he's looking for from offensive players is "versatility."
"Our guys aren't one-dimensional," he said.
Meet Mr. Kuhn.
Like his six touchdowns, his 84 carries ranked second on the team. He also caught 15 passes and recorded seven tackles on special teams.
"He is a very consistent football player and one of the smartest football players on our team," McCarthy said Wednesday. "He brings a lot of value to our team; a lot of value to our offense, and I think that it evident in the way we use him."
His home in Green Bay appears secure.
"Sometimes the pieces just fall into place," Kuhn said.
Although he already owns a "sacred" piece of jewelry that sits "in a safe somewhere," Kuhn is plenty wide-eyed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this week.
"This year, I'm just trying to soak everything in and absorb everything," he said.
Kuhn earned his Super Bowl ring as a member of the Steelers' practice squad, when Pittsburgh defeated Seattle in Detroit for its fifth world championship five years ago. He did not see any action, but dubbed the week "a whirlwind." And it's not like Kuhn was ready to give the ring back because he didn't contribute on the field, but he's excited about the opportunity that Sunday holds.
"I told everyone I wanted to earn one on the field, and that's what we're here to do and that's what Sunday is all about," he said.
No matter the outcome, it's a given that chants of "Kuuuuuuuuhn!" will likely envelop the grandest venue in the NFL on Sunday.
"I'll be pretty proud and some friends and family will be pretty proud," Kuhn said. "I'm just very thankful."
-- Reach Roy Lang III at sports@yorkdis patch.com.