What does it take to win the Super Bowl? Who has what it takes? Only a select few know the answers to these questions and can explain what it’s like to win the big game. Is there a rush of emotions, does anxiety take over, and what does your family think? Those who haven’t won and people who aren’t even NFL players can ponder all they want, but now we know. Here’s what its like to win a Super Bowl, straight from the athletes who have done it.
Clark Was Scared
Once you make it to the Super Bowl, you’re going to face the stiffest competition of your career. No matter how much footage you watch on your opponents, you can expect for them to perform at their best under the bright lights. Ryan Clark feared watching the game slip away from the Steelers’ hands.
“It was me and Troy [Polamalu] on the field, just grateful that Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get one last chance to embarrass us,” Clarke said. “Man, I was so scared. You’re just excited you didn’t lose it.”
Warner Likens It To Getting Married
For athletes, winning a championship should be the most significant accomplishment to them. Individual accolades are sweet, but taking home that trophy with the team lasts forever. Kurt Warner likes to think to win at the end of the season is one of the best experiences you can have.
“I always kind of liken it to the greatest things in life, when you get married, when you have your children,” Warner said. “That kind of feeling in life.” His Super Bowl XXXIV win was the culmination of a long journey that included stocking grocery store shelves.
Imagine winning the Super Bowl as a rookie, but not having contributed much. There’s a bittersweet feel to it, but overall you’re happy you get a ring. The Redskins drafted Keenan McCardell in 1991 and they went on to win, but he didn’t do anything to help.
Eleven years later McCardell won again, but with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This time he lent a helping hand. “It was unbelievable. To have it happen when you’re playing — it’s unbelievable,” McCardell said.
Ricky Proehl Prayed About What It Would Feel Like
You can dream about it and read about it, but you’ll never know until it happens to you. One might even take it to the next level and send up prayers asking what it would feel like to become the champion. That’s what Ricky Proehl did.
“I had been on a lot of losing teams over my first 10 years,” he said. “To always have dreamed about, prayed about what it felt like to be on a winning team, and to have that feeling and experience it, it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Birk Says No One Is Entitled
Some players aren’t lucky enough to make it to the Super Bowl their rookie season or even in their first five years of playing. The NFL is rough and reaching the top is a battle. Some retire before they even get a chance. Center Matt Birk made it to the promise land during his 15th season.
“It is a great way to end it,” Birk said. “No one is entitled to a Super Bowl. But I’m so grateful and fortunate to be part of the team. The championship we won, is something I’ll never forget.”
Matthews Didn’t Take Advantage
Clay Matthews is one of the best defensive backs in the league. It’s easy for him to think he would be able to get back to the Super Bowl after winning it once, especially with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. However, he learned the hard way that’s not the case.
“I have like one picture with my family, in which I’m looking away,” Matthews said. “You didn’t keep any souvenirs because you just figured [you’d get back]. But it’s tough, it’s really hard to win in this league.”
A Childhood Dream For Antwaan Randle El
There are some cases where athletes don’t get into a sport until their teenage years before making it to the professional level. That doesn’t always happen because for the majority of pro athletes, making it to the league was something they wanted since a kid.
Randle says it was “a childhood dream to be able to play on the same stage as those before me. Wow. What a blessing. I thank God every day for that opportunity!”
It Makes For A Better Wedding
Everyone loves you when you win. The people close to you should love you regardless, but after winning a Super Bowl, they’ll have an uptick in the support they show you. Brian Mitchell can attest to that after winning Super Bowl XXVI.
“My wife was my fiancée at the time and she was there, too, and my people were all there,” Mitchell recalled. “So I’m spending time with everybody. We got married three weeks later; the wedding was better, I’ll say that.”
Lawrence Tynes’ Wife Had A Nice Laugh
No matter how surefire it looks that one team is going to win the big game, you always have to wait until the play clock reads zero. The families of the New England Patriots had to learn that the hard way when they lost to Lawrence Tynes and the Giants. The Patriots looked like they were going to win until Plaxico Burress caught the game-winning catch.
“Your family members get passes to get on the field after if your team wins the game,” Tynes revealed. The Patriot family members headed down there earlier but had to turn around. “My wife laughed and told me, ‘We were coming down exhilarated. And they passed us going back up with the look of death on their faces.'”
Sometimes It Sets In Later
Super Bowl XXXVII saw the Oakland Raiders take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The world thought the Raiders would take home the prize, but that wasn’t the case. Perhaps that’s why it took linebacker Derrick Brooks a while to process it all.
“The feeling was one of exuberation,” Brooks said. “It didn’t hit me until we got back to Tampa and saw all the support for our team and throughout the [Tampa] Bay area. That’s what stood out to me.”
Woodson Recalls The Raw Emotion
Can you imagine what it must be like to win after sticking around with a franchise for so long? Riding the highs and sticking with the lows, it can be challenging. Darren Woodson’s teammates, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei, went through this before capturing the prize. Woodson witnessed it all first hand.
“Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei are on the ground crying,” Woodson said. “I’m looking at these dudes for the longest time, they’re hugging up on each other, talking to each other, saying, ‘We did it. We finally did it.’ Of all the things from that Super Bowl, that’s what I will forever remember.”
It’s Better Than What You’re Told
Super Bowl 50 was an eventful one. It matched up the best offensive and defensive players of the year against each other in Cam Newton and Von Miller. Miller and the Broncos outlasted Newton, and Miller couldn’t have been more thankful.
“It’s everything you work for, everything anybody who cares about football wants to experience and when you get it done, it’s an unbelievable feeling, like better than everyone told you or better than you thought,” Miller eloquently said.
Is This Real?
Sometimes a player might find himself in a situation that doesn’t feel real. It’s happening, but it could feel like an out-of-body experience. Playing in and winning a Super Bowl was something Joe Theismann always wanted. It was so surreal to him that he didn’t even remember the first six plays.
“It was like a dream come true Theismann said. “You had to pinch yourself to make sure it was real. I don’t remember the first three to four minutes of the game.” He and his dad had to watch the game later for him to recall everything.
It Changes How Others Speak About You
Another Tampa Bay Buccaneer from the team that defeated the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII had an interesting perspective on how it feels to win. Not only does the way you feel about yourself change, but how others speak your name differs too.
“Being a left tackle on a Super Bowl championship team made a big difference in my self-esteem as a football player, for my family and my high school teammates, who were now able to say: I played with/against a guy who a Super Bowl,” Oben revealed.
Proving Other People Wrong
It’s already a fantastic feeling for athletes when they get to prove the doubters wrong. Throw in winning a championship and that’s probably the holy grail of all feelings. Joe Namath felt both of these when he won Super Bowl III.
“Other players on other NFL teams, they were running their mouths about our league and whether we were championship caliber,” Namath said. “I think we proved we were championship caliber.” As if Namath had anything to prove to anybody.
It Was Overwhelming
Only people who have been there before can tell you exactly how something is going to be. When Phil Simms warned fullback Howard Griffith what would happen when Super Bowl day arrived, he kind of brushed it off. Then everything Simms said came to fruition.
“It was an awesome experience, that emotional rush I got just before being introduced,” Super Bowl XXXII champ Griffith said. “It was almost like your entire life flashed before you. It was to me somewhat overwhelming.’’
Draining But A Huge Relief
With football being such a violent and aggressive sport, the players have to almost code switch during their time on the field. We hope they aren’t always walking around wanting to smash people. Wide receiver Willie Green outlined this perfectly when he discussed his Super Bowl XXXIII victory.
“For that last second to run off the clock, with the confetti and balloons falling down, it’s like a sigh of relief, Green said. “Your mood goes from being in a cage fight to being able to relax and just really soak in everything. It was draining, but such a relief.”
Anyone who watched Super Bowl XLIX knows that it had a very interesting ending. The Seahawks elected to throw the ball just yards away from a touchdown with Marshawn Lynch in their backfield and Russell Wilson threw an interception. Malcolm Butler picked it off and earned MVP honors. He knew he could play in this league.
“It was so emotional but it felt great, Butler started. “I knew I was able to play in this league. I just wanted to inspire young kids and show them that anybody could do whatever they want to do if they put their mind to it.”
An Emotional Rollercoaster
As this list goes to show, everyone felt something pretty big after winning the Super Bowl. It was everything they dreamed about. However, Gary Brackett of the Indianapolis Colts (who won Super Bowl XLI), felt lots of gratitude for getting to the big game.
“And how we got there: We finally found a way to beat New England [in the AFC Championship Game],” Brackett said. “They’ve been in the mix to get to the Super Bowl basically every single year. They’re a dynasty. We beat a juggernaut that season.”
The Locker Room Party Is Most Special
Don’t you wish you could join the locker rooms of championship teams? They have champagne flying everywhere, they’re dancing and celebrating like it’s no one’s business, and they’re just having an overall great time. It’s the best moment ever, according to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette.
“The celebration in the locker room, man, that’s the real party,” Lockette explained. “That’s the real party right there. That’s where you get a chance to let the tears out and there’s no cameras in there … and your buddies are right there.”