Top Five Surprise Stars In Super Bowl History

Everyone expects the big names to perform well in the big games, but Super Bowls are often won and lost based on contributions from the supporting cast. In extreme cases, someone completely unexpected will step up and make a huge impact on arguably the grandest stage in all of sports. On that one special day, each of these men shocked the world and made an indelible mark on the annals of Super Bowl history.

5. Dexter Jackson, Super Bowl XXXVII

Dexter Jackson
[Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]

​The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a great defense in 2002, but one player from that group who got little attention was safety Dexter Jackson. Jackson was a starter, but he was not an impact player for the Bucs — until Super Bowl XXXVII. Dexter Jackson shined against Oakland that day, picking off two Rich Gannon passes and returning those interceptions for 34 total yards (per Fansided) en route to being named Super Bowl MVP.

Jackson was able to parlay his Super Bowl performance into a big free agent contract with Arizona the following season, but he accomplished very little in the remainder of his career, playing his final professional season with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL in 2009.

4. James Washington, Super Bowl XXVIII

James Washington
[Image by Doug Mills/AP Images]

James Washington was a journeyman NFL safety who started all of one game for Dallas during the 1993 season. However, in Super Bowl XXVIII, Washington was pressed into extra duty due to Buffalo’s wide-open passing attack, and he made the most of his opportunity. Washington was credited with 11 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery, which he scooped up and returned for a key early touchdown that set the tone for the Cowboys’ blowout victory.

Washington faded into obscurity in the years that followed, playing only two more lackluster seasons in the NFL after his breakthrough performance in Super Bowl XXVIII.


3. David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII

David Tyree
[Image by Gene J. Puskar/AP Images]

David Tyree entered Super Bowl XLII with four total receptions for the entire 2007 season. But in this game against the unbeaten New England Patriots, Tyree was a star. As described by USA Today, his spectacular 32-yard catch on the Giants’ game-winning drive will always be his signature moment, but he also caught an early touchdown pass from Eli Manning to help put New York in position to end New England’s quest for an undefeated season.

After Super Bowl XLII, Tyree never caught another pass in the NFL. He was on the Giants’ injured list during the entire 2008 campaign, then briefly appeared in a few games with Baltimore in 2009 without making a dent in the stat sheet.

2. Larry Brown, Super Bowl XXX

Larry Brown
[Image by Al Bello/Getty Images]

​Larry Brown began his pro career in 1991 as an afterthought, as he was chosen 320th overall in the NFL Draft that year. Brown worked his way into the starting lineup, but he was still overlooked on a Cowboys team full of stars. Brown out-shined all of his more heralded teammates in Super Bowl XXX, intercepting two passes for 77 total return yards, and setting up two easy touchdowns for Dallas’ offense in their 27-17 win over Pittsburgh.

After Brown’s Super Bowl heroics, Raiders owner Al Davis became enamored with the Dallas cornerback and signed him to a rich free agent contract. Larry Brown only played three more years in the NFL, barely seeing the field during that time.

1. Timmy Smith, Super Bowl XXII

Timmy Smith
[Image by Bob Galbraith/AP Images]

Timmy Smith, the Redskins’ hero in Super Bowl XXII, didn’t start a single game during the 1987 season. Smith had only played sparingly (29 carries for 126 yards) that year, but when pressed into service that Super Bowl Sunday, wow, did he ever deliver. The New York Post reports that Timmy Smith sliced through Denver’s defense for 204 yards and two touchdowns in Washington’s runaway win over the Broncos. Smith still holds the Super Bowl record for most rushing yards in a game.

Timmy Smith’s life took an unfortunate turn after he led the Redskins to that Super Bowl triumph. He began battling injuries and reported substance abuse, and only played one more full season in the NFL after his historic Super Bowl performance.

[Featured Image by George Rose/Getty Images]