Winning a Super Bowl can make-or-break the legacy for stars to build their NFL stats. But having a winner-take-all scenario to determine a championship provides an opportunity for every man to make a mark in the minds of football fans. These players have one huge performance and earn a chance to make more money or endear themselves to a fanbase.
The Super Bowl MVP provides some insight into this category. Larry Brown, Mark Rypien, and Jim Plunkett all won MVPs to give their career profiles a serious boost. But there are other players who made their biggest mark in the Super Bowl without fanfare.
Percy Howard Made Super Bowl X Exciting
Percy Howard had a strong college career at Austin Peay, as a basketball player. Howard, who was named to the all-Ohio Valley Conference team in 1974, caught the eye of scouts of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite never playing college football, Howard would sign to play wide receiver with the Cowboys.
In the regular season, Howard was the third wide receiver and seldom saw the field. His only playing time was on special teams, where he returned two kicks for 51 yards. With 1:48 remaining in the game, the Cowboys were trailing the Steelers 21-10. Howard got behind future Hall-of-Fame cornerback Mel Blount and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Howard, who only played because Golden Richards was knocked out of the game by Blount, also had an opportunity on a Hail Mary pass that could have won the game. It was tipped away by the Pittsburgh defense. Howard’s touchdown pass was the only catch of his career.
Timmy Forgot About the Hogs
Washington running back Timmy Smith set a Super Bowl record by racking up 204 yards in the 22nd edition of the big game. The Redskins, behind 35-second quarter points, would paste the Denver Broncos 42-10. Not wanting Smith to be nervous, Washington coach Joe Gibbs didn’t tell Smith he would start in place of ailing veteran George Rogers.
After Smith’s performance in the Super Bowl, he held out of the next training camp saying he deserved more money. Washington’s offensive line had opened up gaping holes in the Super Bowl and management didn’t think Smith was worth the money. Smith would eventually come back to camp.
Smith’s performance, however, never matched the Super Bowl effort. He would finish the 1988 season with 470 yards total but was cut after the year. After a year off, he would resurface with the Dallas Cowboys in 1990, but only had six carries for six yards.
Linebacker Jack Squirek played four seasons in the NFL and compiled three sacks and one interception during his career with the Los Angeles Raiders and Miami Dolphins. But in Super Bowl XVIII, Squirek ended up being a big part of the game plan in the Raiders’ 38-9 victory as three-point underdogs against the Washington Redskins. Late in the first half, Squirek was tabbed to watch for a screen pass Joe Theismann may throw to speedy running back Joe Washington.
In the Redskins’ 37-35 victory in the regular season, Washington caught the same pass for a 67-yard completion. When Theismann dropped back to throw the same pass, Squirek saw it coming and stepped in front of the ball. Squirek went 18 yards to the endzone, scoring a touchdown that put Los Angeles ahead 21-3 heading into halftime.
Duane Thomas, the Silent MVP
Duane Thomas wasn’t obscure in his day, he was a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1970. However, Thomas’ refusal to play nice with management resulted in his accomplishments being lost to history. Thomas, who rushed for 1,596 yards in his first two years with Dallas, would only finish his career with 2,038 yards total.
But in Super Bowl VI, Thomas shined. He led both teams in rushing, collecting 95 yards on 19 carries to lead the Cowboys to a 24-3 victory. Thomas, who had boycotted the media all year, would end up being voted MVP. But there were concerns about how he would act at a banquet where they presented the award.
Roger Staubach, who passed for 119 yards and two touchdowns, was given the nod instead.