By Brady Henderson
For most Super Bowl MVPs, the award marks the latest and often greatest accomplishment in a career that has already had many. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, though, is just hoping it helps him earn a starting job.
Smith was a part-time starter last season, and his role in 2014 isn’t set in stone. As strange as that sounds, it’s reality given how Seattle has only three starting spots for four linebackers who are all capable of starting.
Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII, will have to compete for a starting role in 2014. (AP)
“That’s the way we do things,” Smith told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” on Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to the competition and the opportunity to be able to start. Just trying to pave the way a little bit. The Super Bowl was fun and hopefully I showed a little something, and just trying to build on it.”
It wasn’t as if Smith came out of nowhere when he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII after returning an interception for a touchdown, recovering a fumble and recording 10 tackles.
He was the one who caught the pass that was deflected by Richard Sherman in the NFC title game, the other half of the decisive play that punched Seattle’s ticket to the Super Bowl. In Week 17, Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown to help Seattle beat St. Louis and claim both the NFC West title and the conference’s No. 1 seed. He made eight starts during the regular season, all of them coming when Seattle’s normal starting linebackers – Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright – were either suspended or injured.
If he’s going to be a full-time starter in 2014, Smith will have to break through a linebacker logjam.
Here’s what we know: Wagner’s spot in the middle is almost certainly secure, not only because of how well he played after returning from a midseason ankle injury but because Smith has only played on the outside during his three NFL seasons. Wright also entered the league in 2011 and has been a starter ever since, first on the strong side before moving over to the weak side last season. And Irvin likely isn’t moving back to defensive end. That was the word from defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who told 710 ESPN Seattle that Irvin is “really in the right spot” at outside linebacker.
“I want to start, obviously,” Smith said.
Here’s more from Smith’s appearance on “Bob and Groz”:
Life as an MVP. Winning the Super Bowl MVP has meant newfound attention and some nice perks for Smith. He won a new Chevrolet truck, which he’s giving to his mother. He’s made the media rounds, including appearances on “SportsCenter” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. There was also the trip to Walt Disney World. He flew there on a private plane and was given his own parade. “A lot of little kids thought I was pretty cool for being next to Mickey Mouse,” he said.
No more dunking. Smith will go down as the last player to legally dunk a ball over the crossbar now that the NFL has disallowed the celebration. That’s how he punctuated his pick-six in the Super Bowl – sort of. Understandably gassed after his 69-yard return, it was more like a layup. He’ll need a new celebration now that it’s no longer legal. “I should have had a new one before I did that one,” he joked.
In the community. Smith was among the members of the Seahawks and Sounders who visited victims of the Oso mudslide last week. “It was a sad experience,” he said, “but at the same time it’s one of the most important things I’ve done in my entire life, being able to kind of just give a distraction to those people and kind of talk to them about what they’ve been going through.” Smith has also worked with Food Lifeline to help launch “The Great American Milk Drive”, an effort to provide food banks with milk for those in need. More information can be found here.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.