Future looks bright for Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith's next-day attire wasn't anything like his Super Bowl performance the night before.
The Seahawks linebacker was understated and casual, dressed in beige cargo pants and a white shirt with a brown army fatigue print. And shortly after stepping to the podium to address the room full of reporters, he apologized for his ensemble.
"I'm dressed to go to Disney World. Sorry about that," said Smith, who became the first defensive player to be named the Super Bowl MVP since Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson (Super Bowl XXXVII).
The former seventh-round pick -- and younger brother of former Giants wide receiver Steve Smith -- had assumed that another teammate, possibly quarterback Russell Wilson, wide receiver Percy Harvin or even receiver Jermaine Kearse, would be given the game's biggest honor. And even when teammates tried to tell him differently, he refused to believe it.
But Smith's second-quarter interception of Peyton Manning and subsequent 69-yard touchdown return Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVIII put the game out of reach in the Seahawks' 43-8 blowout of the Broncos.
Smith's play was the longest interception returned for a TD in the Super Bowl since the Saints' Tracy Porter picked off Manning and returned it 74 yards in Super Bowl XLIV.
Smith's thought process on the way to the end zone? "Don't get caught,'' he said.
The unassuming 24-year-old came to the Super Bowl with little fanfare but left New York City with a new Chevrolet truck and the spotlight fixed on him. And now he has a Super Bowl memory to rival his brother's.
Asked which play was better -- his interception or Steve's third-and-11 sideline catch with 45 seconds to go in the Giants' 17-14 upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII -- the younger Smith considered the question for a few seconds.
"That was a pretty big play," he said before flashing another smile. "I guess me. But I was there for that game, and I couldn't have been happier for him. Just a great moment."
Smith, who played for USC under coach Pete Carroll, was always watching and always waiting for his time to come. He didn't receive an invite to the NFL combine and waited until Day 3 of the 2011 draft to hear his name called.
"He didn't like it, but he had to go in the seventh round," Carroll joked. But the Seattle coach made it clear he was set on selecting Smith at the right time, given their extensive history.
"We've been coaching him since he was 11 years old, I think," Carroll said. "We recruited his brother Steve, and he was kind of always hanging around and coming into the program. We've appreciated Malcolm's athleticism, his smarts and his toughness for a long time."
Smith made it clear Sunday night that he was accepting the MVP award on behalf of the entire defense. But there was no doubt it finally was his time and his moment.
"I guess there's unlimited possibilities," he said, referring to players like him who weren't invited to the combine. "That's not the end of your story."