JERSEY CITY -- It's a moment that could make an NFL player's future a little more comfortable, a moment when more than 100 million pairs of eyes are trained upon him waiting to see just exactly what kind of person he really is.
No, we're not talking about a fourth-and-goal situation in the final minutes of Super Bowl XLVIII. We're talking about the big moment that comes after the big moment, the post-big play celebration. For defensive players, who aren't as recognizable as their offensive counterparts, it's the one place where they can get creative. It's the one place they can show the world -- and Madison Avenue -- what the man behind the face mask is really like.
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Just last week in the AFC Championship Game in Denver, Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, aka Pot Roast, burst into stardom after sacking Tom Brady and then celebrating with a little hand wave sack dance. Knighton told reporters that he wouldn't mind landing a Chunky Soup commercial and was gearing up to unveil something new in the big game.
"If I get a sack this game, I've got a little special sack dance," he said. "Yes, it's something to do with Pot Roast."
In this Super Bowl, however, it's the Seahawks defense that has the potential to spend the most time in the spotlight. The Seahawks, who racked up 46 sacks in the regular season, have a number of defensive players eager to put their celebratory mark on the game should they get their hands on Peyton Manning on Sunday. When it comes to celebrations, this is a team that leads the league in sultry.
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who led the Seahawks with 8.5 sacks in the regular season, has been unleashing a hip-swiveling dance so PG-13 that teammate Earl Thomas says he won't let his young daughter watch. "I make her turn her head," he said. Bennett said he got the idea for the dance -- in which he puts his hands behind his head and gyrates his hips like he is twirling a Hula Hoop in slow motion -- from watching former pro wrestler Ravishing Rick Rude.
Bennett said he isn't thinking much about celebrating going into the game, but his teammates are. Defensive end Cliff Avril said out of all the sack-dance celebrations -- including his own -- he loves Bennett's the most.
"I just hope he gets to do it this week on a national stage," Avril said.
Of course, probably the most notable celebration by a Seahawk came after a quarterback hurry, not a sack. Brendan Mebane, the team's 311-pound defensive tackle, did a bare-belly dance that was replayed again and again last season after he hit Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Mebane considers himself a connoisseur of celebrations. When he was a kid, he used to try to imitate Deion Sanders' high step.
"I loved it, but I wouldn't try it now. I'm too big," he said. "I got my own celebration. I just try to play football and have fun. It's all fun."
Avril said he resisted celebrating the first couple of years in his career, but then became a convert. Avril's celebrations vary from year to year. He admits that a couple of times in the offseason, he has sat around and thought about what he might want to do. But for the most part, a lot of it is spontaneous.
Said Avril: "I used to get a sack and walk right back to the huddle. But then I started thinking, I might as well put my stamp on it."
A stamp that says this is mine, I did it and there's a person underneath this helmet. In a game where helmets and pads serve as a depersonalizing buffer between the athlete and his audience, you have to get your me-time any way you can.