By Brady Henderson
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The speed that Malcolm Smith showed while making the biggest play of Super Bowl XLVIII led one reporter to ask what he ran in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
Smith's answer helped put into perspective just how far he's come since then.
"I didn't get invited to the combine," he said.
Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith is the first defensive player since 2003 to win the Super Bowl MVP award. (AP)
America, meet Malcolm Smith, a seventh-round pick in 2011 who wasn't even a full-time starter at outside linebacker this year yet just became the first defensive player in 10 Super Bowls to win the game's MVP award. He did it with a 69-yard interception for a touchdown, 10 tackles and one fumble recovery.
And afterward, he was asked if he woke up Sunday morning thinking he would be the Super Bowl MVP.
"No," he said. "I was just happy to be on the field."
Smith had made 10 starts this season, including two weeks ago when he came down with the interception on the decisive play of the NFC title game after cornerback Richard Sherman tipped the ball to him in the end zone.
But to say that he was again in the right place at the right time would discredit what he did to get there. When defensive end Cliff Avril hit Peyton Manning's arm and popped the pass high into the air, Smith broke on the ball and ran past the intended receiver as he caught it and then turned on the jets.
"I guess the ball came out high and I was just fortunate the running back was kind of sitting there and waiting on it," Smith said, "and I just attacked it and took off."
At 24 years and 212 days old, Smith is the fourth-youngest player to win the Super Bowl MVP award. It's just the third time a linebacker has won the award.
12th Man makes itself heard
With the neutral location drawing a good deal of impartial observers and leaving neither team with an overwhelming advantage in fans, the Super Bowl is usually the quietest game of the NFL season.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Highlights | Interviews||• O'Neil: What we learned from Seahawks' win||• O'Neil: Seahawks ‘D' continues domination in title win||• O'Neil: Seahawks' Super Bowl MVP? Take your pick||• Huard: Breaking down the fly sweep in ‘Chalk Talk'||• Henderson: Title extra sweet for Harvin, receivers||• Henderson: Russell Wilson makes history in victory|
That wasn't the case in this one, especially on the first play from scrimmage when the Seahawks scored a safety that was the product of Denver's inability to communicate.
"The first play was a cadence issue," Manning said. "We were sing snap count on the play, and due to the noise, no one could hear me. As I was walking up to the line of scrimmage to make a change and to try to get us on the same page, and the ball was snapped."
And it sailed over Manning's head, Avril making a tackle in the end zone for a 2-0 Seattle lead.
Of the 82,529 who were in attendance at MetLife Stadium, it certainly seemed like the majority of them were Seahawks fans.
"12th Man was great today," coach Pete Carroll said.
Sherman's quiet night ends early
The most eventful part of Sherman's night might have been the injury that forced him to leave in the fourth quarter. The Broncos rarely threw in his direction, but one of the few times they did resulted in Sherman sustaining an injury he said was a high-ankle sprain.
He walked with the help of crutches and wore a protective boot on his right foot afterward.
"It was a rough game, but this championship hat, winning, achieving the dream really numbs the pain, a lot," he said. "I was saying that I let my teammates down and I wasn't able to finish the game, but I knew that they would step up for me and do that. This feeling is just unbelievable. It's a dream come true."
• At 49 degrees, this marked the third-coldest outdoor Super Bowl in history.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.