It’s the best kind of draft speculation – the conjecture over the virtual unknowns who hear from an NFL team in the late rounds after most of America has stopped paying attention. Who are the diamonds in the rough? Which of the dizzying array of names across the TV crawl will emerge as a star in the nation’s highest profile sport?
When it comes to Super Bowls past, the collection of late draft picks who made a mark on the big game is impressive indeed. Some are superstars in their own right and others propelled their team to Lombardi Trophy glory and then disappeared into the shadows, but each of these players turned their ignoble draft order into that most coveted of sports baubles – a Super Bowl ring.
- Bart Starr. As resume highlights go, it’s hard to do better than being named the MVP of the world’s first two Super Bowls. But the Green Bay Packers quarterback was actually selected in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft, even if, as the 200th pick overall he was comparable to a sixth or seventh round pick in today’s draft. But 11 years after that draft, Starr led Green Bay to victory over Kansas City in Super Bowl I and Oakland in Super Bowl II, throwing for a combined 457 yards in the two games. When he retired after 16 seasons, he had completed 57.4 percent of his passes.
- Larry Brown. The Steelers had held Emmitt Smith to just 49 rushing yards and were only trailing the Cowboys by three points late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXX, but Dallas prevailed on the shoulders of Larry Brown, a little-known cornerback selected in the 12th round of the 1991 draft. Brown snagged two Neil O’Donnell passes for interceptions and both led by valuable Dallas interceptions. He was named the Super Bowl MVP for his performance.
- Shannon Sharpe. Despite waiting until the 7th round of the 1990 draft to hear his name called, the tight end was a vital part of the offensive units for three Super Bowl wins – Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII with the Broncos and Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens. When he retired in 2003, Sharpe held the all-time NFL records for career receptions (815), receiving yards (10,060) and touchdowns (62).
- Terrell Davis. Sharpe’s teammate, the hero of Super Bowl XXXII found himself taking home an MVP trophy less than two years after being selected in the 6th round in 1995. The Packers had no answer for the fleet tailback, who scored three of the Broncos’ four touchdowns and ran for 157 yards. One year later, Davis collected 102 yards to help Denver to a second world title.
- David Tyree. If he was a one-hit wonder, Tyree made his brief impression in the flashiest way possible – with an exceptionally acrobatic catch to spark the winning drive in his New York Giants’ comeback win in Super Bowl XLII. Before the helmet catch, Tyree was a 6th round draft pick out of Syracuse who had caught only four passes in the regular season. But he caught one of the most spectacular passes in a Super Bowl considered one of the most exciting in history, so his name lives on.
- Tom Brady. The most obvious late-draft Super Bowl star is also one of the top two quarterbacks to ever take the field on Super Sunday. With the Patriots’ victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in February, Brady joined Joe Montana as the only three-time MVPs in Super Bowl history and became one of only three quarterbacks, with Montana and Terry Bradshaw, to capture four Super Bowl titles. And of course, Brady waited until the 6th round, and the 199th pick overall, to join the ranks of the New England Patriots at the 2000 draft.