Malcolm Smith’s victory lap as the reigning Super Bowl MVP will eventually stretch from Florida to Alaska, with lots of fun and little stops in between.
And sometimes, during the few quiet moments Smith has had since helping lead the Seahawks to a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2, he catches himself wondering if maybe it was all just a dream.
“It’s still a little bit of ‘I can’t believe that happened to me,’ ” Smith said last week during one of the many appearances he has made since winning MVP honors, this one promoting the Great American Milk Drive at the downtown Seattle Food Lifeline warehouse.
Tuesday, he’ll be among the Seahawks honored by the Mariners during a ceremony before their home opener, and in a few days he’ll fly to Anchorage as part of an NFL group promoting the league’s Play60 campaign. (He also recently was part of a Seahawks group that visited Darrington, spending time with residents impacted by the mudslide).
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At one point during the whirlwind that began the day after the Super Bowl, when he was whisked away quickly for the traditional appearance at Disney World in Orlando, Smith found himself in a Bellevue auditorium, speaking on stage to a few hundred businessmen, helping promote the Microsoft Cloud.
Catching Richard Sherman’s tip of Colin Kaepernick’s pass in the end zone to seal the NFC title game was easy compared to that, Smith said.
“These are obviously smart people, well-connected, international — I was nervous,” Smith said. “Man, I didn’t have any nerves in the Super Bowl. Once you make your first contact, you just get out there, you are kind of good. But up there, you are watching your words.”
Smith, though, said he is trying to take it all in, realizing this is a moment that may never come again.
“I’m having a good time, enjoying the opportunities,” Smith said.
And while he knows he was an unlikely MVP — technically a non-starter in the Super Bowl, on the field for just 34 of the 69 defensive snaps in the game — and that any number of other Seahawks could have gotten the award, he’s not apologizing.
“I put in a lot of time to try to be successful playing football and taking the most of my opportunities,” Smith said. “So it feels good. It’s a little bit of validation. But it’s also motivation for next season, trying to build on that and trying to earn a starting spot and be even more respected by my teammates. That’s the most important thing.”
Indeed, there are likely few Super Bowl MVPs whose role on their team entering the next season remained a little unclear.
It’s not that Smith won’t be a key part of the defense in 2014, it’s just a matter of where. Smith was sort of a jack-of-all-trades on the linebacking corps in 2013, starting eight games in the regular season and 10 overall at both weakside and strongside linebacker — all in place of players who were either injured or suspended.
He started three games early when Bruce Irvin was serving his PED suspension, then five games at midseason and late in the year when Bobby Wagner and then K.J. Wright were sidelined. He started the first two playoff games when Wright was still injured.
With Wright back to full health, and the Seahawks starting in a nickel defense, Smith was on the bench when the Super Bowl began. Intriguingly, though, the Seahawks often played with Smith, Wagner and Wright as the three linebackers, with Irvin seeing most of his snaps against Denver as a defensive end. Coach Pete Carroll has since said not to read much into that. But using that alignment more could be one way to get Smith on the field more regularly in 2014.
Smith says he’s not too worried about where he’ll line up, though.
“I mean, everybody would love a little bit more security with one spot or the other,” he said. “But I just want an opportunity to play. I feel like ‘give me a chance to practice and I will be OK.’ And I think the coaches know that, too.”
What Smith also knows is that eyes will be on him in 2014 like never before. A year ago, he was a former seventh-round pick still trying to find his way, entering the season with a career total of 22 tackles in his first two seasons — he made nine in the Super Bowl alone.
“It will be interesting because I will face up with a running back and he’ll be like ‘OK, I know who this guy is now,’ ” Smith said. “So I’ve got to be ready. I’ve got to be on my toes. People will love an opportunity to come at me and make great plays on me.’’
Smith, though, said he’s looking forward to that challenge, as he is merely getting back on the field. He said all of his travels — which included a vacation in Hawaii — have been fun, but that he’s “anxious” to get back to playing football.
That won’t happen in any formal way until Offseason Training Activities begin in late May. And when that time comes, it’ll be a different-looking Seahawks team that will take the field, one without the likes of receiver Golden Tate, defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and offensive tackle Breno Giacomini.
“It’s weird, man,” Smith said. “You are going to step in there and there are guys that are not going to be there. Breno’s not going to be there. Golden’s not going to be there. Clem’s not going to be there. Those are not only just personalities but great players that we have to find people to fill those roles. But I’m looking forward to it, and I know the younger guys are looking forward to their opportunity to step up and kind of show who they are.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.