Burly old Max McGee probably set the tone back 33 years ago.
January 15, 1967 -- even the most avid collectors wouldn't have guessed that the veteran Green Bay receiver would wind up being the hero of the very first Super Bowl. Like this year's game between Tennessee and St. Louis, most collectors were looking at the quarterbacks, Bart Starr and Len Dawson, to be the stars they could bank on in that first championship between the AFC and NFC.
It was McGee, a bench warmer, who became the hero of that very first championship. His pre-game, off-the-field antics have become part of the lore. When all pro Boyd Dowler got hurt, the Packers needed McGee to aid in passing attack. McGee, who had caught only four passes all season, caught the very first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history -- a 37-yarder from Starr -- that set the Packers on their way to a 35-10 route and the beginning of a dynasty. McGee also caught a 13 yard pass from Starr in the third quarter, emerging from obscurity to become a player whose value on the collectibles market was assured for the next three decades.
McGee wasn't the only unheralded player to use the Super Bowl as a springboard for bigger and better things, both on the field and at trade and card shows for years to come. In many cases, the unknown or unheralded players who earned their moment in history would never be able to exceed or match their championship performances. Their careers would quickly slide into mediocrity. Because of their starring role before huge national and worldwide audiences, their efforts earned them Super Bowl immortality, while their accomplishments were rehashed at every subsequent Super Bowl. Their shining moments also made them more desirable to collectors of autographs, rookie cards or jerseys for years to come.
In 1971, another veteran, Earl Morrall, enjoyed his day in the sun. Johnny Unitas, the future hall of famer (active participant in numerous card shows through the years) was injured in the first half of Super Bowl V against Dallas. Unitas later claimed he wasn't as badly hurt, anxious to amend for his performance against Joe Namath and the Jets two years earlier.
In stepped Morrall, guiding Baltimore from a 13-6 halftime deficit to a 16-13 victory. In what many consider to be the sloppiest Super bowl game ever played, Morrall led the Colts on a game-winning drive that culminated in a 32-yard field goal by Jim O'Brien at the buzzer. The journeyman Morrall never got that kind of national attention again.
Great feats on the field, aren't always what gains the attention of collectors, fans and media. In Super Bowl VII, Garo Yepremian was involved in one of the most famous miscues Super Bowl history. The Dolphins won the Super Bowl 14-7 over Washington to begin their own dynasty. It would have been a shutout if Yepremian, the usually reliable Dolphins' kicker, had kicked the field goal instead of trying to throw a pass. Intercepted by Mike Bass, the infamous error led to the Skins' only TD. Replays of Yepremian's pass became one of the lasting images of Super Bowl blunders through the years.
John Riggins was a silent partner during the Redskins 1982 regular season, shortened due to a NFL player strike. Most of the attention focused on higher profile players like quarterback Joe Theismann and receiver Charlie Brown. Riggins, however, became electrified in the playoffs, rushing for 100 yards or more during each of the postseason wins, including a then record 166 yards including a 43-yard TD romp, in the Skins 27-17 win over Miami in Super Bowl XVII. Riggins' colorful dealings with the media added to his legacy although he never again matched his performance after that Super Bowl.
An unlikely Riggins teammate would also grab the spotlight in Super Bowl XXII. Quarterback Doug Williams had his share of critics as being an unworthy successor at quarterback to Theismann. But against Denver, Williams exploded with four touchdown passes in the second quarter (still a Super Bowl record) to earn MVP honors. He wound up with 340 yards passing, but like many other unheralded predecessors who succeeded in the super Bowl, his career went into a free fall after that spectacular show.
Like Yepremian, another kicker earned infamy the hard way in 1991. The Giants led the Buffalo Bills 20-19 entering the final two minutes, when quarterback Jim Kelly engineered a drive deep into New York territory. After a time out, the Bills called time out. Scott Norwood entered the game for the apparent Super Bowl winning kick, only to miss the field goal from 47 yards and dashing Buffalo's final Super Bowl hopes. Norwood would still have a respectable career after the miss, but he was forever known to collectors, especially Buffalo fans, as the guy who blew the field goal that cost the Bills the championship.
Four years ago in Super Bowl XXX , Dallas and Pittsburgh again met again, but this time it was a relatively unknown defensive player who stole the show. Cornerback Larry Brown intercepted two passes that led to 14 second half points to lead the Cowboys to a 27-17 victory over the Steelers. For his efforts, he was named as the MVP of the game, but within two years, he was gone from the Cowboys' lineup and practically forgotten except for his super efforts in the Super Bowl.