The SEC's Super 8: The players from the conference who won Super Bowl MVP
In just a couple hours, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will face off in Super Bowl LI, where plenty of SEC players will look to shine on the biggest stage of them all.
Players like Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones have dreamed their whole lives of leaving their mark in Super Bowl lore, much like these players from the conference did.
The first three Super Bowl MVPs all went to SEC players, and eight overall have won the award. Here’s a look at each one.
QB Eli Manning
We have to start with the two players who’ve won the award twice, and it’s only appropriate that we start with former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning considering both of his performances came against the Patriots.
Tom Brady will be seeking his record-breaking fifth Super Bowl ring, which would give him the most of any quarterback in history. However, he’d already have that record if he was able to get past Manning at least once.
In 2007, Manning guided the New York Giants to three straight road playoff wins against division winners (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers).
Then, Manning fearlessly led his team on a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that included maybe the most memorable play in Super Bowl history as he avoided a sack to connect with David Tyree’s helmet for a 32-yard gain on 3rd-and-5.
I would’ve included a video link that has the call from play-by-play announcer Joe Buck if it wasn’t so ridiculously uninspired.
What many people forget is the fact that Manning also converted a 3rd-and-11 later on that drive before throwing the game-winning score to Plaxico Burress. Manning finished that game 19-for-34 with 255 yards, 2 TDs and a pick, while ending the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season.
Four seasons later, Manning was back to thwart New England again. This time, he took a 9-7 Giants team to the big game, where they found themselves down 17-15 and pinned on their own 12-yard line with 3:46 left before this happened.
Manning finished the game 30-for-40 with 296 yards and a touchdown as the Giants went on to win 21-17.
QB Bart Starr
The first two Super Bowls in the 1966 and 1967 seasons pitted the NFL’s Green Bay Packers against a couple former AFL teams that are now part of the AFC West.
The signal-caller for those Vince Lombardi teams was former Alabama quarterback Bart Starr. In Super Bowl I, Starr got the scoring started with a 37-yard TD to unsuspecting hero Max McGee. Still, the Packers only led 14-10 at halftime.
However, Starr found McGee again to make it 28-10 near the end of the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Starr finished 16-for-23, 250 yards and 2 TDs with an INT in the 35-10 win.
McGee, who only had 4 catches all season before the game, finished with 7 catches, 138 yards and those two scores, which can both be seen here.
The following season, Starr once again guided Green Bay back to the Super Bowl after an iconic 21-17 Ice Bowl victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game.
The Packers then faced the Oakland Raiders and went into the break of that matchup with another slim halftime lead (16-7) before exploding for a decisive 33-14 win.
Starr went 13-for-24 with 202 yards and a 62-yard TD pass to Boyd Dowler.
QB Peyton Manning
While his little brother has one more Super Bowl MVP award, Peyton managed to match him in rings last season before calling it a marvelous career.
Manning’s first MVP came the year before Eli’s first. Big brother led the 2006 Indianapolis Colts to the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory, the other coming in 1970 when it was located in Baltimore.
In a rainy contest in Miami against the Chicago Bears, things didn’t start very well for the Colts as Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown before Manning threw an interception on Indy’s ensuing drive.
However, Manning would answer on his team’s next possession with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne to make it 7-6 (missed the extra point).
Manning finished the game 25-for-38, 247 yards with a score and a pick in the 29-17 win.
WR Hines Ward
And before Peyton won that MVP, Hines Ward took home the hardware in the 2005 season, giving the SEC three straight Super Bowl MVPs from 2005-07.
Ward’s honor also gave Georgia its third MVP, the most among all SEC teams.
On the receiving end of the biggest play in Super Bowl XL, Ward hauled in a 43-yard touchdown from Antwaan Randle El off a reverse pass with about nine minutes left to play, providing the final margin of 21-10 over the Seattle Seahawks.
Ward had 5 catches for 123 yards to go with 18 yards on a rush. The Forest Park, Ga. native, a fan favorite among Steelers fans, ended the year with 14 receiving touchdowns, while scoring in three of Pittsburgh’s four playoff games.
RB Terrell Davis
Incredibly, of the trio of Georgia alums to win Super Bowl MVP, none were quarterbacks.
Terrell Davis, who was just inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, played at Long Beach State in 1991 before transferring to UGA to play three seasons for head coach Ray Goff.
The sixth-round pick of the Denver Broncos unfortunately saw his career cut short by a knee injury but not before recording a remarkable seven straight 100-yard rushing performances in playoff games spanning the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Denver won back-to-back Super Bowls during his tear.
Davis averaged 142.5 rushing yards per outing in eight postseason games. His most memorable is his 157 yards and 3 TDs in the Broncos’ 31-24 win over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII.
Davis may not have won the Super Bowl MVP against the Falcons the following year, but he was the NFL’s MVP after rushing for 2,008 yards and 21 TDs.
RB Emmitt Smith
The Dallas Cowboys’ dynasty of the early 1990s was built around Florida product Emmitt Smith, a first-round pick of the franchise in 1990.
It was also built around dealing the Buffalo Bills the last two of their four straight Super Bowl losses, and Smith was a nightmare for the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII.
Smith, who was largely held in check in the team’s first two playoff games, broke out for 132 yards off 30 carries to go with 2 touchdowns. He also added 4 catches for 26 yards.
It was clear that Dallas wanted to make a deliberate effort to feed Smith the ball after going down 13-6 at halftime. On the Cowboys’ first possession out of the break, Smith carried it on seven of the team’s eight plays for 61 yards and a 15-yard TD that put his team up for good.
He later added a 1-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
QB Joe Namath
After Starr came up big in the first two Super Bowls, it was time for “Broadway Joe” to shine on the big stage.
Joe Namath, the Crimson Tide product, made headlines even before the game by guaranteeing his New York Jets would beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts.
He backed up his bold talk by leading the Jets to a 16-7 victory, giving the AFL its first win over the NFL in the Super Bowl.
Namath went 17-for-28, 206 yards with no TDs or INTs in the game. In fact, Namath didn’t even attempt a pass in the fourth quarter as the Jets had the mindset of protecting the 16-0 advantage they built through the first three quarters.
Only two of Namath’s 28 attempts went for more than 20 yards, both were to George Sauer (a 35-yarder in the second quarter and a 39-yarder in the third quarter), but Namath was methodical in the convincing win.
S Jake Scott
The only perfect Super Bowl-winning team got a Super Bowl MVP performance from an SEC player.
Jake Scott, the Georgia alum, is one of just 10 defensive players to win the award (Denver’s Von Miller earned it last season). The safety and return specialist was big in the Dolphins’ 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
Scott picked off two passes, one of them came in the end zone with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter as Miami was holding onto a 14-0 lead. He returned that interception 55 yards.
His other INT came in the second quarter.
Scott, who grew up in Athens, was a five-time All-Pro. He had 35 INTs in just five seasons with the Dolphins before adding 14 more in three seasons with the Redskins to finish his pro career.
He also had a stellar collegiate career with the Bulldogs, posting 16 INTs in just two seasons, including 10 in 1968.