Professional athletic championships are among the most elusive awards on the face of the Earth. Untold numbers of kids grow up working hard to become pro athletes, but minuscule fractions of them ever even come close, let alone actually make it to the big leagues. This goes for baseball, football, hockey, basketball, soccer, rugby, and obviously non-team sports. For every one who makes the league, millions do not achieve their dream.
The numbers dwindle down even further for those athletes who win championships. In any league, there is always just one winner whether a single competitor or a team. Using some examples, in the World Cup of soccer (football, for those outside of North America) dozens of countries show up but only one leaves with the cup. Similarly, only one team wins the Stanley Cup each year, only one team wins the World Series, and topping off the list of largest single day sporting events, only one team wins the Super Bowl.
Each year there are over 50 players on every football team in the NFL, and only one wins the Super Bowl MVP trophy. It truly is one of the most elusive feats in the sporting world. Often throughout the history of the big game the Super Bowl MVP has been the winning quarterback. Tom Brady and Eli Manning are recent winners, both of whom have won the award more than once. Looking further back into the history of football, Joe Montana (three times), Bart Starr, and Terry Bradshaw also have multiple Super Bowl MVP selections.
On the other end of the spectrum, several lesser known players have won the Super Bowl MVP award. The most recent of course was 2014's Malcolm Smith of the Seattle Seahawks. The backup linebacker recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a pick-six touchdown, making himself the key player in the massacre that was Super Bowl XLVIII. With Smith in mind, these are ten lesser known Super Bowl MVP's and what their lives have looked like since their Super Bowls.
10 Jim Plunkett
Our number ten is not only a two time Super Bowl winner and one time MVP, he is also the subject of one of the most heated Hall of Fame debates of all time, given his dual Super Bowl wins but poor TD/INT ratio and low passing totals. Playing for the Raiders (both Oakland and Los Angeles), Plunkett won Super Bowls XV and XVIII (15 and 18). Super Bowl XV was in 1981, and Plunkett threw three touchdown passes, leading the Raiders to a win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
To this day Plunkett is still involved with the Raiders organization, and hosts highlight shows and talk-show segments for the team.
9 Mark Rypien
The only Canadian on this list, and the first Canuck to start in the NFL at quarterback, Mark Rypien is our number nine, after leading Washington to Super Bowl glory over the Buffalo Bills back in 1992. He threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-24 whipping during the days when the Bills were great but just...not...great...enough.
Rypien has an athletic family, including cousins in the NHL (one of whom is now deceased, Rick Rypien) and a daughter in the (Lingerie) Legends Football League. In the early 90's, Rypien got into the racing world as a NASCAR owner, but sold his team. More recently, he has been known for his golf game. He regularly participates in celebrity charity tournaments and has done so for well over a decade now.
8 Dexter Jackson
Jackson was a safety who won the Super Bowl MVP award in a year when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won over the Oakland Raiders. Given these team's recent play, those words just sound silly together. Dexter Jackson's overall career is somewhat unremarkable. He played in the NFL for ten years but floated around the league, playing for the Bucs twice and the Cardinals and Bengals for a total of five seasons.
He was a backup for much of his career and many consider his selection as the Super Bowl MVP to be somewhat of a fluke. After his football career, he briefly worked in broadcasting, but has since been working with Mental Health Care, INC. This group assists at-risk youth and children in crisis situations.
7 Larry Brown
Brown was the first cornerback to win the Super Bowl MVP award, and did so with the Dallas Cowboys during their dynasty days in the 1990's. During Super Bowl XXX, he was instrumental in the Cowboys' victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, catching two interceptions.
After his NFL career, he joined the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network, where he has worked as an analyst and radio show host. Aside from his work exclusively with the Cowboys, he has been one of the main figures in the "Fuel Up 60" Campaign. For those not familiar, that is the initiative to get kids out of McDonald's and off the couch, and into a habit of eating healthy and going outside. This initiative goes out the window on Sundays however, when kids are advised to drink a ton of Gatorade, order eight pizzas from Papa John's, and watch football all day.
6 Ottis Anderson
Honoring another player who handed the Buffalo Bills a Super Bowl loss in the early 90's, here's Ottis Anderson. The long-time Giant is a 10,000 yard rusher, a Super Bowl MVP from Super Bowl XXV. Anderson rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in the game and while Thurman Thomas rushed for more yards and caught for 55 as well, the win was all that mattered.
After a 14 year career in the NFL, Thomas embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship. He has represented many businesses, been on multiple talk shows, started multiple enterprises of his own, and has donated his time to countless charities and community initiatives ranging from the United Way to breast cancer research to drug awareness and education.
5 Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard is the only player ever to win the Super Bowl MVP award based only on performance on special teams. It was back in 1997, when the Green Bay Packers beat the New England Patriots. Howard totaled 90 punt return yards and 154 kick return yards with one touchdown, helping the Packers to a 35-21 victory.
His playing career ended in 2002, but he took to broadcasting quickly. He has covered college football for ESPN since 2005, and has also been a regular on The Best Damn Sports Show Period, along with various radio broadcasts as an analyst. He has won multiple Emmys for his work.
4 Doug Williams
Williams not only won the Super Bowl MVP award but he is also the subject of one of the most funny/offensive/confusing stories in sports media history. The popular legend goes, he was asked on Super Bowl Media Day "Doug, how long have you been a black quarterback?" This question is thought to be one of the dumbest ever asked, but the story is disagreed upon with many sources arguing the question took a form closer to "Doug, you've been a quarterback for a long time, but when did being black become such a big deal?" Either way, his presence in the Super Bowl took on a folklore all its own.
In Super Bowl XXII, Washington, under Williams' leadership, took it to the Denver Broncos to the tune of 42-10. Williams himself threw four touchdowns on 18 completions for 340 yards. Since the end of his football career in 1989, he has worked for many football teams in various positions at the collegiate and professional level. As of 2014, he had taken a position with the Redskins as a personnel executive, after having worked in similar positions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Virginia Destroyers of the UFL.
3 Harvey Martin
"No list can exist without some tragedy," to paraphrase Shakespeare...or Tupac. Strange that one would confuse the two. Harvey Martin's career may have been one of the most impressive from a 1970's defensive lineman, but his life after football was rough to say the least. Martin played 11 years in the league and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. He and defensive tackle Randy White shared Super Bowl MVP honors in the Dallas Cowboys' victory over the Denver Broncos in 1978.
His life after football involved substance abuse, poor handling of his finances and domestic abuse. This habit continued from the 1980's until the late 90's. Though he was clean for many of his final years, and even became a speaker teaching children about drugs, he died in 2001 of pancreatic cancer. He was 51 years old. He is the only Super Bowl MVP who has died.
2 Jake Scott
For a cheerier story, we head back to Super Bowl VII, in which Jake Scott, a safety for the Miami Dolphins, became the second defensive player to win the Super Bowl MVP award. Scott caught two interceptions in the game, with one coming in the fourth quarter, to help secure the Dolphins' victory over the Redskins in a low-scoring affair, 14-7.
After his career ended in 1978, he put his money mainly into car dealerships. Each one would eventually go under, but with some help from various friends who were skilled in investing, he got back on his feet and now lives the dream. That dream is of course, a quiet life in Hawaii, earning his living as an investor.
1 Chuck Howley
Chuck Howley was the first defensive player to receive the Super Bowl MVP award, the first non-quarterback to receive the award and also refused to receive the award itself because his team had lost. It was also the first time the MVP award had been awarded to a player in a losing cause. This all went down way back in 1971 when the Baltimore Colts beat the Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V.
Howley played two more years for the Cowboys before retiring. They won the Super Bowl the following season. He started a uniform business in Texas after his retirement but his main passion became ranching, which he keeps as a part time hobby. Though the now 78 year old Howley is retired he still maintains involvement with his business and works around his ranch.