For me, the appeal of the Super Bowl is watching the breakout
performer who unexpectedly shines on the biggest sports stage in the
world during the first week of February. Here are the most startling
performances over the years:
Desmond Howard. The former Michigan Wolverine was a surprise MVP of
the 1997 Super Bowl after his career seemed to be on the decline since
his Heisman Trophy days in Ann Arbor. Having caught only 13 passes
during the year, Howard put on a kick-return clinic with 244 return
yards, including a 99 yard kick-off return for the winning touchdown.
Howards electric runs helped the Packers prevail over the rising New
Doug Williams. QB Williams came off the bench to win the 1988
Super Bowl MVP while leading Washington to a lopsided victory over a
favored Denver team. As an African American, Williams saved the
biggest surprise for racist fans that still believed black QBs didnt
have the smarts to succeed. Williams dominating play ended such talk
Timmy Smith. In the same 1988 Super Bowl, the rookie Smith rushed for
204 yards (still a Super Bowl record) and scored two touchdowns, also
helping the Redskins to a victory. Smith had gained just 126 yards for
the entire regular season before he was called upon in the seasons
biggest game. Timmy Smith was done with football for good by the end
of the next year as injuries cut his career short. In 2008, Smith
finished a two-year prison term on drug charges, perhaps still trying
to recreate the high from that glorious day 20 years prior.
Janet Jackson. Who can forget the half-time show of the 2004 Super
Bowl when Justin Timberlake somehow helped expose Janet Jacksons
breast. As a result of this gaff, CBS was fined $500,000 by the FCC
for , Im not sure what. CBSs counterclaim has climbed all the way to
the Supreme Court, but is still unresolved. Half-time shows are now
tape-delayed for several seconds to avoid any more disturbing
wardrobe malfunctions being forced upon millions of innocents,
Michael Jackson. If you are wondering why half-time performers are on
this list, consider the following: Michael Jacksons show in 1993 was
the first incidence of a half-time show actually having higher
television ratings than the Super Bowl game itself. Jacksons one-man
performance was also one of the most watched events in TV history.
Max McGee. The first Super Bowl game in 1967 provided the biggest
surprise of all. This game was surrounded by more questions than any
in football history. Fans argued whether the NFL was vastly superior
to the AFL or not. Could Kansas Citys Lenny Dawson measure up to
Green Bays great QB Bart Starr? Were the Packers unstoppable?
Kansas City of the upstart AFL started well and licked their chops
when Packers starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler was injured during the
games second series. Aging Max McGee was brought into the game as a
replacement, though he had caught only four passes in the regular
season. McGee thought he had little chance of playing and was still
hung over from partying all night before the game. He even had to
borrow a helmet from a teammate since he left his own back in the
The rest of the story is now legend as McGee scored the first
touchdown in Super Bowl history with a one-handed catch for 37 yards.
In all, he caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns as the
Packers won 35-10.
Never afraid to live life on the edge, McGee stood out as carouser on
a Packers team famous for partiers such as Paul Hornung. McGee was
also one of the three original investors in the Chi-Chis restaurant
chain, but fell off the roof of his home to his death at 75 while
using a leaf blower a few years ago.