We spend almost every waking breath overanalyzing the Super Bowl stars to death. Why should this year be any different? With Super Bowl XLVIII right around the corner, here's a look at the biggest Super Sunday party crashers in history.
Super Bowl XXXI - Desmond Howard, Packers
Talk about the ultimate Super Bowl X-factor, Howard's performance was enough reason for football coaches forever to pay attention to special teams. A former Heisman Trophy winner in college and the NFL's leading punt returner in 1996, Howard was not the biggest no-name. But having caught just 13 passes in 1996 for the Packers, he was not one of the headliners during Super Bowl week. But the eventual Super Bowl MVP became the difference in the game by equaling the Super Bowl records for return yardage (244), including a game-clinching 99-yard kickoff return to give the Packers a 35-21 final margin over the Patriots.
Super Bowl XV - Rod Martin, Raiders
Talk about being overshadowed, Rod Martin (pictured, No. 53) was hard to notice amidst all the Oakland Raider characters on the sideline. Martin was used to being overlooked, being a 12th-round draft pick in 1977. In 1980, Martin was still just a part-time starter at outside linebacker who had picked off just two passes in his four NFL seasons. But in Super Bowl XV against the Eagles, Martin gave Philly QB Ron Jaworski nightmares by intercepting three passes in Oakland's 27-10 win. Martin eventually developed into a two-time Pro Bowler, and his Super Bowl trifecta was his coming-out party.
Super Bowl XLV - Jordy Nelson, Packers
OK, since the Packers won, we can forgive his three horrendous dropped passes. But in a game with the Packers using their three- and four-WR sets — and with Donald Driver getting hurt — backup receiver Jordy Nelson stepped up in several big-time situations. Nelson scored the game's first TD on a pretty 29-yard catch and spent the game crushing the Pack in the slot with a game-high 9 catches for 140 yards.
Super Bowl XXV - Jeff Hostetler, Giants
Hostetler was an unknown backup QB in his fifth NFL season until an injury to starter Phil Simms gave him his big break in December, 1990. Hostetler started the final two games of the season for the 13-3 Giants, and coach Bill Parcells stuck with Hostetler through the playoffs and Super Bowl against the favored Buffalo Bills. Hostetler was cool under heavy pressure, completing 20 of 32 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. But he showed his best moxie on New York's go-ahead third quarter TD drive, when Hostetler completed three critical third-down passes to keep the chains moving in New York's eventual 20-19 upset.
Super Bowl XXXVII - Dexter Jackson, Buccaneers
The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were stocked with stars on defense — with DT Warren Sapp, LB Derrick Brooks and safety John Lynch the headliners on one of the NFL's stingiest defenses of all-time. But it was the little-known Jackson who earned MVP honors, snatching two of Tampa Bay's five interceptions against Oakland's Rich Gannon as Tampa Bay blasted the Raiders, 48-21.
Super Bowl I - Max McGee, Packers TE
McGee was pretty much over the hill at age 34, and merely a backup on Green Bay's first Super Bowl team. But after starting WR Boyd Dowler separated his shoulder on the first series of the game, it was McGee's number who was called again and again by Packers QB Bart Starr. McGee (pictured, right) caught 7 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay's 35-10 win over Kansas City.
Super Bowl XXVIII - James Washington, Cowboys
On a star-studded 1993 Cowboys team, safety James Washington was your average Joe — he started in five of his eight NFL seasons, picked off 17 career passes and scored only one touchdown. But he picked quite a time for that TD. Only starting the Super Bowl as an extra defensive back to offset the Bills' multi-WR sets, Washington turned the entire game. With Dallas trailing Buffalo 13-6 at halftime, the Bills immediately moved to ball to midfield to start the second half, when Washington recovered a fumble and returned it 48 yards for the game's go-ahead score. The Cowboys went on to win 30-13, with Washington recording 11 tackles, an interception and his only career touchdown.
Super Bowl XLII - David Tyree, Giants
Of course, everyone remembers "The Catch II." Unknown Giants wideout Tyree pinned a wild heave from QB Eli Manning against his helmet and somehow held on for a monstrous third-down catch on the Giants' Super Bowl-winning drive against the Patriots. But Tyree also had three catches for the game, including a go-ahead TD earlier in the fourth quarter — which nearly outdid his four catches during the regular season. Tyree ended up missing the entire 2008 season due to injury.
Super Bowl XXX - Larry Brown, Cowboys
Brown's performance vs. the Steelers is the perfect example of being in the right place at the right time. Brown was already enjoying a career year with the 1995 Cowboys, with six INTs and his only two NFL career TDs. But in the second half, Brown's Sunday turned Super when Steelers QB Neil O'Donnell gift-wrapped two easy interceptions, which Brown returned 44 and 33 yards respectively. Both picks set up Dallas touchdowns in the 27-17 win, and Brown's career year led to the Super Bowl MVP award and a hefty free-agent deal with Al Davis and the Raiders. In his final three seasons, Brown played in only 16 games — starting only once and recording just one more career pick.
Super Bowl XXII - Timmy Smith, Redskins
Smith was the ultimate Super Bowl secret weapon, so secret even Redskins fans and media were shocked by what happened. The Redskins' rookie running back had tallied a mere 126 yards his entire rookie season in mostly garbage-time carries at the end of blowouts. But with the Redskins trailing the Broncos 10-0 through one quarter, Smith was part of Washington's 35-point second-quarter barrage that powered the 'Skins to a 42-10 win. Smith scored on a 58-yard TD scamper in that quarter, and ran for a Super Bowl record 204 yards for the game. He played only 15 games the rest of his brief, injury-plagued career. — Adrian Hasenmayer