Malcolm Smith was a little-known Seahawks linebacker before Super Bowl XLVIII, but a couple of big plays later and he walked away with the game's MVP award. It seems every year, someone unexpected steps on the big stage and comes through with a huge play. Whom will it be this year? Here are 10 candidates in no particular order. -- Sid Saraf
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10. Will Tukuafu: Fullback, Seahawks
Tukuafu started the season with the San Francisco 49ers, but was signed by Seattle when starting fullback Derrick Coleman went down with an injury. Since then, the 285-pound monster -- who has also played on the defensive line -- has slowly grown into his role and is blasting holes open for running back Marshawn Lynch. On Sunday, he'll need to be in rare form as the Patriots will undoubtedly test the Seahawks at the line of scrimmage. If Tukuafu can take out his man on each play and maybe even catch a pass or two, look out.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
9. Shane Vereen: Running back, Patriots
Sure, Vereen isn't exactly an unknown player, but it sometimes appears as if he gets lost in the shuffle in New England. However, don't sleep on his skills as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. With the Seahawks gearing up to stop tight end Rob Gronkowski and powerful running back LeGarrette Blount, Vereen may find himself open in the flat and with his speed, could cause a nightmare for opposing linebackers.
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8. Tim Wright: Tight end, Patriots
If the Patriots use a lot of '22' formations with two tight ends, the Seahawks better keep an eye on Wright. With Rob Gronkowski requiring a lot of attention, No. 81 could find himself in situations similar to what is pictured above: wide open. On Sunday, keep an eye on the Patriots when they reach the red zone. If Wright is on the field, don't be surprised if he becomes a tasty target.
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7. Bryan Walters: Wide receiver, Seahawks
Walters' main role is as a punt returner, although he could see some snaps at wideout thanks to the injury to Paul Richardson. Special teams could be the factor that separates the winner and the loser in Super Bowl XLIX and if Walters can break off a long return and either score or give the Seahawks some short drives, that could be the difference.
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6. Chris Jones: Defensive tackle, Patriots
Discipline. If you're going up against the Seahawks' running game, you can't bite on their fakes, you need to get to your gap and you MUST tackle well. With running backs like Marshawn Lynch and even the speedier Robert Turbin coming at them full speed, Jones will need to stay home and once he gets a hand on a ball-carrier, and never let go. What's more, Jones plays a key role on special teams and has an ability to block kicks, which could be huge if this game goes down to the wire.
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5. Bruce Irvin: Linebacker, Seahawks
Remember when Seattle was roundly mocked for taking Irvin with its first-round pick in 2012? Those days are long gone. Irvin has grown from just a pure pass rusher into a player who can stay on the field for all four downs. He even returned two interceptions for touchdowns during this regular season. The Seahawks defense is known for tipping passes into the air and Irvin always seems to know where to be. His natural speed could lead to a pick-six on Sunday.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
4. Bryan Stork: Center, Patriots
Hard to believe he's just a rookie, but here we are. Stork suffered a right knee injury in the AFC championship game, but is working to be ready for the Super Bowl. If he's able to go, it's up to him make sure Tom Brady stays upright and that the Patriots' running game is able to exploit the Seahawks between the tackles. The center is the captain of the offensive line and if he has a big game, that means everything is going right for New England. No pressure or anything.
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3. Kevin Williams: Defensive tackle, Seahawks
It's strange to refer to Williams as an 'under-the-radar' player, since he spent several years in a starring role with the Minnesota Vikings. However, he's in twilight of his career now and obviously would love nothing more than to get a ring before he hangs up his cleats. He started the season in a reserve role but became the starting nose tackle when Brandon Mebane was lost for the season to injury. Now, it's up to him to stand tough and keep the Patriots from gashing the Seahawks on the ground. Just the job for a wily veteran.
Getty ImagesOtto Greule Jr
2. Luke Willson: Tight end, Seahawks
He's not the first option in the Seahawks offense, but could play the most critical role. Willson, despite some ball-security issues, is a big target and once he gets moving in the open field, has surprising speed and is difficult to bring down. If the Patriots sell out to stop the run, look for the tight end to get some targets via play-action for a possible big play.
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1. Jamie Collins: Linebacker, Patriots
Collins could land the most critical assignment of Super Bowl XLIX: shadowing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Collins will need to play with extraordinary discpline on Sunday and make sure he uses proper footwork to keep Wilson from breaking off a big play with his scrambling ability. The Seahawks have made it a habit of getting big plays with their quarterback late in the game when defenses begin to tire out. Collins will need to dig deep. If he does, he could singlehandedly bury Seattle's offense.