The Super Bowl has had its share of unexpected heroes, dating all the way back to Super Bowl I when Green Bay wide receiver Max McGee stole the show against the Chiefs.
Bart Starr was voted MVP, but McGee was the story of the game, coming off the bench and catching two touchdown passes in the Packers’ 35-10 win.
Dallas’ Larry Brown was an unexpected Super Bowl MVP when he intercepted two passes in Super Bowl XXX; Green Bay kick returner Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return helped him win MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI; and Tampa Bay safety Dexter Johnson’s two interceptions earned him MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
But perhaps the most unlikely Super Bowl MVP of all was Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith. Smith, a part-time starter last season, became a postseason sensation in the Seahawks’ victory over Denver last year in Super Bowl XLVIII.
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Smith sealed the win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game when he intercepted Colin Kaepernick’s final pass in the end zone that was deflected by cornerback Richard Sherman.
And he won Super Bowl MVP honors after making nine tackles (five solo), returning a Peyton Manning interception 69 yards for a touchdown and recovering a fumble in the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over Denver.
So how has being a Super Bowl MVP changed Smith’s life, other than a trip to Disney World?
“It hasn’t man,” Smith said. “It hasn’t really changed at all.
“It was a great game, we made some great plays, you win the MVP trophy, you celebrate, and go back to Seattle and see how crazy our fans are for us.”
Despite his Super Bowl heroics, Smith’s role with the Seahawks remains the same. He appeared in 14 games, with three solely as a special teamer. He started five games when Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were sidelined by injuries.
“Coaches make decisions, and I just try to show up and play my role and be the best player I can be for my team,” said Smith, 25. “I don’t make the decisions.”
Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. calls Smith “my fourth starter” in Seattle’s 4-3 defense.
“He’s a guy who steps in and plays if anyone gets hurt,” Norton said. “He’s a core special-teams player. He’s the same guy he was going into the Super Bowl last year, but he ended up making some very key plays and ended up the MVP.”
A year ago, Smith was on the field for most of the game not because anyone was hurt, but the Seahawks were mostly in their nickel defense against a Denver team that was trailing and utilizing multireceiver sets.
“He’s certainly a difference maker,” Norton said. “He’s a guy who can play anywhere in the NFL. It just speaks more volumes about the guys in front of him. It’s not a knock on Malcolm. But Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin must be pretty good if they’re able to hold off the Super Bowl MVP.
“Malcolm is fantastic. He’s a guy who can play any position for me. One of the smartest players I have … one of the fastest players I have. If you don’t watch out, he might be MVP again.”
Smith can only hope. No one can ever take away the time in which he made big play after big play on the grandest stage of all.
“It was a moment when you’re mind goes empty, and you enjoy it,” Smith said wistfully. “It’s one game. Anybody can have a great game.”
Super Bowl MVP odds
Analysts at MyTopSportsbooks.com posted the following odds for players to win this year’s Super Bowl MVP award:
Tom Brady: 2/1
Russell Wilson: 4/1
Marshawn Lynch: 5/1
LeGarrette Blount: 6/1
Rob Gronkowski: 10/1
Darrelle Revis: 20/1
Richard Sherman: 22/1
Julian Edelman: 25/1
Kam Chancellor: 25/1
Doug Baldwin: 33/1
Earl Thomas: 42/1
Brandon LaFell: 50/1
Jermaine Kearse: 50/1