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Demaryius Thomas (88) of the Denver Broncos catches a pass in front of Byron Maxwell (41) of the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith a no-name no more

NEW YORK -- It's doubtful any Super Bowl MVP has shown up to the "morning-after" news conference dressed so casually.

How casual? Well, some sportswriters were dressed better, and that doesn't happen very often.

What, no suit, Malcolm Smith?

"They didn't tell me what the dress was like," Smith said, smiling. "I'm dressed to go to Disney World. Sorry about that."

Later in the day, Smith got his trip to Disney World, a routine destination for Super Bowl MVPs. But before heading south, away from snowy New York, Smith took part in another Super Bowl MVP ritual -- receiving his new car.

Actually, he was handed car keys. In this case keys for a Chevrolet Silverado "High Country." He must have made that company's executives very happy when asked what he was currently driving.

"I actually drive a Chevy Tahoe," Smith replied.

Smith, an outside linebacker, became only the ninth defensive player in Super Bowl history to earn MVP honors after a night in which he registered nine tackles, recovered a fumble and returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown.

It marked Smith's fourth INT in the last five games for Seattle dating back to the end of the regular season. His "pick" of Peyton Manning put a fork in the Denver Broncos, giving Seattle at 22-0 lead late in the first half of what became a 43-8 victory at MetLife Stadium.

Obviously, Smith knew he was having a great game Sunday.

"But I didn't think I'd get to the point of being MVP," he said. "Even during the game, guys were like, 'You might be MVP.' I'm like, 'No way. No way.' But to be here it's just ... it's pretty cool."

Sometimes it happens that way on Super Bowl Sunday. On a field littered with star players, a no-name steals the show. Then again, maybe Smith is a no-name no more.

During Tuesday's Super Bowl Media Day free-for-all at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Smith didn't have a podium. The next day, during the Seahawks' media session at their hotel in New Jersey, he sat alone in a corner. Ten feet away, members of the media hounded running back Marshawn Lynch to say something, anything.

But Monday morning, there he was, guest of honor at a news conference called just for him (and coach Pete Carroll).

"I think it's a really cool statement about our defensive group that one of the guys gets elevated," Carroll said. "But I think it's a statement about the whole group.

"You look at the way that we played, and you say somebody on this defense ought to be the MVP, and he had a great night. So it could've been other guys as well, and he knows that, too."

Such as safety Kam Chancellor or defensive end Cliff Avril. Smith's performance also speaks to the overall talent and depth on the young Seattle defense. And it underscores the fact that general manager John Schneider and the Seattle scouting department have done an excellent job unearthing hidden gems.

After playing at the University of Southern California, Smith wasn't even invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, usually not a good sign for future employment in pro football. He got drafted, but just barely, going 242nd overall -- or near the very end of the seventh round.

But just because he didn't get a combine invite, Smith said, "That's not the end of your story. Just keep grinding. Stick to what you've got to do, and what you want to do, and how you see things going for yourself."

Carroll himself had plenty of insight on Smith, while coaching at Southern Cal.

"We've been coaching him since he was 11 years old, I think," Carroll quipped. "It seemed like it because we recruited his brother Steve (at USC), and he was kind of always hanging around. It just seems like we've had him in our system for so long."

(Malcolm's brother Steve last played a game in the NFL for the Rams in 2012, catching 14 passes for 131 yards.)

"We've appreciated Malcolm's athleticism and his smarts and his toughness for a long time," Carroll continued. "His college career kind of knocked around because he was playing behind one of the most amazing linebacker crews of all time in college football.

"And then he got banged up a little bit. So we knew that he was an extraordinary athlete. We fortunately had a shot to take him. John (Schneider) figured out where he would go. Malcolm didn't like it, but he was going in the seventh round and he's proven otherwise. Just like a lot of guys in our program."

In other words, Smith outplayed his draft status, by a mile.

Wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin, who both caught touchdown passes Sunday night against Denver, didn't even get drafted.

In the secondary, cornerback Richard Sherman was a fifth-round pick. Byron Maxwell, who filled in admirably at corner when Brandon Browner was suspended, was a sixth-rounder. Browner played four seasons in the Canadian Football League before landing with Seattle. Not exactly top-flight prospects here.

But they're all Super Bowl champions now, including one who's underdressed for success.

(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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SUPER BOWL


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