Seahawks LB Smith takes unlikely path to Super Bowl MVP

The 2014 Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, of the Seattle Seahawks, catches a football thrown to him as he rides in a parade at Walt Disney World with Mickey Mouse on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The 2014 Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, of the Seattle Seahawks, catches a football thrown to him as he rides in a parade at Walt Disney World with Mickey Mouse on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. AP photo

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NEW YORK – Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith didn’t wear a suit. He had one with him, but decided it wasn’t the proper attire for the occasion.

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The 2014 Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, of the Seattle Seahawks, catches a football thrown to him as he rides in a parade at Walt Disney World with Mickey Mouse on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Instead, at the Monday news conference for the Super Bowl MVP just 11 hours after he helped Seattle crush Denver 43-8, Smith wore cargo pants and a white shirt with camouflage sleeves.

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

Smith, the first defensive player to make the trip to Disney World since Super Bowl MVPs began going there in 1987, reflects the path these unsung Seahawks took to becoming Super Bowl champions.

Smith went from an off-the-radar seventh-round pick to Super Bowl MVP in four years. The 24-year-old went from a guy whose name many fans probably wouldn’t know to one who received congratulations Monday morning while walking through the hotel lobby.

“He didn’t like it, but he had to go in the seventh round,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s proven otherwise, just like a lot of other guys in our program.”

Doug Baldwin, an undrafted free agent, led Seattle with 66 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Jermaine Kearse, an undrafted free agent, also scored a touchdown.

And Michael Bennett, an undrafted free agent, harassed Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

Smith, 6 feet and 227 pounds, earned his trip to Florida by making some of the game’s biggest plays. He returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown. He later recovered a fumble deep in Seattle territory.

“I’ve always just been taught to run to the ball and good things will happen for me,” Smith said.

He was drafted in the seventh round in 2011, with the 242nd pick. Smith was largely an afterthought. but played for Carroll at USC and grew up in his system.

It took time, but Smith developed into a utility linebacker for the Seahawks. He was capable of filling in at all three spots, and his speed allowed him to make plays.

But Smith was called upon this year on two different occasions. He had to start the first four games in place of suspended linebacker Bruce Irvin. Then he returned to the bench when Irvin returned, only to be called on again when K.J Wright was injured against San Francisco in Week 14.

Linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said then that Smith tends to get better the more he played. Just watch, he said.

In his final five games, including three in the playoffs, Smith had five interceptions. He returned two of them for touchdowns and nearly scored on another one. He made 36 tackles, including five for loss.

He wasn’t just a stopgap until Wright returned. He was a difference-maker.

“He’s had a huge impact,” Carroll said. “It’s because he’s such a well-rounded athlete, and he knows our system so well.”

Near the end of the game, when it was clear the Seahawks were going to win, Smith’s teammates kept mentioning that he might be the Super Bowl MVP. He didn’t believe them.

“No way, no way,” he told them. “Not me.”

Turned out, Smith underestimated his chances. Just as others did about four years ago. No more. Now he’s a Super Bowl MVP on his way to Disney World.

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