But throughout history, Super Bowls have had surprise heroes. Let’s take a look at some beginning with the first Super Bowl in January 1967.
The Green Bay Packers’ Max McGee was sure he wouldn’t play in Super Bowl I, which pitted the Packers against the Chiefs. McGee was so sure that he sneaked out of the team’s hotel and spent the night before the game having fun instead of sleeping.
After all, the 34-year-old wide receiver had caught only four passes for the Packers that season. But early in the game Packers’ star receiver Boyd Dowler got hurt.
“McGee!” Packers Coach Vince Lombardi shouted. “Go in for Dowler.”
McGee looked around for his helmet. He had left it in the locker room! So McGee borrowed a teammate’s helmet. Despite this slow start and no sleep, McGee caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns to help the Packers win, 35-10.
In Super Bowl XLII (42), another seldom-used receiver made a spectacular play. The New York Giants’ David Tyree had caught only four passes during the 2007 season. Still, Tyree was playing as the Giants trailed the New England Patriots (with Brady as quarterback), 14-10, with a minute to play.
It was third down on the Giants 44-yard line. New York quarterback Eli Manning faded back, almost got sacked, and threw a long, desperate pass to Tyree in the middle of the field. Tyree jumped with Patriots defender Rodney Harrison all over him. Tyree caught the ball by pinning it against his helmet.
First down. The Giants scored a few plays later,and upset the Patriots, 17-14. Tyree was the hero, but he never caught another pass in an NFL game.
Washington football fans know something about surprise Super Bowl heroes. Running back Timmy Smith had carried the ball only 29 times for 126 yards during the 1987 season.
Smith ran wild in Super Bowl XXII (22). He gained a record 204 yards and scored two touchdowns to help Washington trounce the Denver Broncos, 42-10.
Smith was never as good again. After just two more seasons, he was out of the NFL.
There have been other surprise Super Bowl heroes. Nick Foles, Mark Rypien, Desmond Howard and Dexter Jackson have been named the most valuable player (MVP) of a Super Bowl. Good players, but hardly legends.
Who knows, maybe Brady or Mahomes won’t be the star of this year’s Super Bowl. Maybe it will be someone unexpected. It’s happened before.