Superstars make Super Bowls and Super Bowls make superstars.
Which of the many headliners on the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants will make the difference in Sunday’s game? And what players seeking the spotlight will be catapulted to stardom by the NFL championship game?
It happens all the time. In the last two years, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice made the Super Bowl their personal showcases. For 24 years, the Bart Starrs, Joe Namaths and Mean Joe Greenes have stamped their styles on the game on the way to the Hall of Fame.
The game itself has been a starmaker, too. Terry Bradshaw’s greatness became apparent at the big show. Phil Simms soared to a higher level. John Taylor became a high-profile figure.
Bills such as Smith, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Cornelius Bennett and James Lofton already have made it, on the field and in the minds of the public. So have such Giants as Simms (out for this game with a foot injury), Lawrence Taylor, Mark Bavaro and Everson Walls.
Other players simply don’t have the reputations yet.
For them, the Super Bowl can provide the stage. For Darryl Talley or Dave Meggett, for Pepper Johnson or Andre Reed, superstardom could be just a tackle or touchdown away.
Reed is at the same career juncture as John Taylor, recipient of the winning touchdown pass in the 1989 Super Bowl. His credentials are impeccable--indeed, he is the most dangerous receiver in the AFC. His clippings have not kept up, though.
He seems to know why. And how to fix it.
“All year, we’ve been saying to ourselves that we can play with any team,” Reed said. “Everyone says the NFC is the so-called tough conference, with teams like the 49ers, the Giants and the Eagles. Those are the teams that are the so-called bullies.
“We felt if we could play with them, we could play with anyone. Now we feel we’re playing not only for ourselves, but for the whole AFC.”
While Bennett and Shane Conlan are filling their resumes with Pro Bowl slots, Bills linebacker Talley has been ignored. He made it to this year’s Pro Bowl only by being selected Wednesday by AFC Coach Art Shell with the special pick given the coaching staff.
“That Darryl doesn’t get that recognition is like ignoring everything a linebacker can do,” Bennett said. “After the front office built a good team, we said we had to grow up and become a great team. Darryl was one of the leaders, one of the guys who carried us there.”
Like Talley, New York’s Johnson generally had been overlooked. But he got his due this season, outplaying even Taylor to earn All-Pro recognition.
“I actually like being in LT’s shadow,’ Johnson said, “because it means if I’m being called a shadow, I’m on the verge of being good.”
Johnson is a lot more than good. Greatness, and superstardom, might be awaiting him at Tampa.
SUPER BOWL MVPs 1990--Joe Montana, QB, S.F.
1989--Jerry Rice, WR, S.F.
1988--Doug Williams, QB, Wash.
1987--Phil Simms, QB, N.Y. Giants
1986--Richard Dent, DE, Chicago
1985--Joe Montana, QB, S.F.
1984--Marcus Allen, RB, Raiders
1983--John Riggins, RB, Wash.
1982--Joe Montana, QB, S.F.
1981--Jim Plunkett, QB, Oakland
1980--Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pitt.
1979--Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pitt.
1978--Randy White, DT, Dallas and Harvey Martin, DE, Dallas
1977--Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Oak.
1976--Lynn Swann, WR, Pitt.
1975--Franco Harris, RB, Pitt.
1974--Larry Csonka, RB, Miami
1973--Jake Scott, S, Miami
1972--Roger Staubach, QB, Dallas
1971--Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas
1970--Len Dawson, QB, K.C.
1969--Joe Namath, QB, N.Y. Jets
1968--Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay
1967--Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay