Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes (10) answers questions during a media availability at the football team's practice facility on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, Fla. Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. Holmes reveals a childhood secret: He spent a year selling drugs on a small-town Florida street corner. He intentionally chose to use the biggest of stages, the Super Bowl, to make public the mistakes of his youth in hopes of persuading at-risk children to take a better course with their lives. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
He once sold drugs on a street corner. Now he's MVP of a most remarkable Super Bowl.
Santonio Holmes, who overcame his gritty childhood in rural
south Florida, made a brilliant catch with 35 seconds left to give
the Pittsburgh Steelers their record sixth Super Bowl title, a
27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.
After a pass to the left corner went through Holmes' hands, Ben
Roethlisberger lofted the ball toward the right corner, over the
hands of not one, not two, but three Arizona defenders. Holmes
leaped to get it - and somehow managed to drag both feet in bounds,
his toes barely scraping the grass before he tumbled out of bounds.
The official threw up both arms - touchdown! - and Holmes sat
out of bounds for several seconds, looking down at a ball he didn't
want to give up. His teammates piled on top of him, celebrating a
game that will go down as one of greatest in Super Bowl history.
Amazingly, Holmes' catch came at exactly the same point - 35
seconds remaining - as Plaxico Burress' 13-yard touchdown catch in
last year's Super Bowl, giving the New York Giants their upset of
the unbeaten New England Patriots.
That finish was a classic. This one was even better.
Holmes was so good - nine catches for 131 yards, four of them on
the winning 78-yard drive - that he actually managed to outshine
teammate James Harrison, who seemed to be a shoe-in for the MVP
award through three quarters.
"Santonio is a guy who just loves to deliver," Steelers coach
Mike Tomlin said.
Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year, returned an
interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the
first half. The longest play in Super Bowl history gave the
Steelers a 17-7 lead heading to the locker room, and they stretched
it to 20-7 after three periods.
But Kurt Warner and the Cardinals rallied, going ahead 23-20
with 2½ minutes remaining on Larry Fitzgerald's 64-yard touchdown
Then it was Holmes' turn to shine. Earlier in the week, he used
the Super Bowl stage to acknowledge selling drugs in Belle Glade,
Fla., hoping his story would persuade other youngsters growing up
in tough surroundings to turn their life around, just as he did.
Now, he's given them another compelling reason to follow his
Before the final drive, Holmes told Roethlisberger to look his
way. They hooked up four times, including a 40-yard pass that gave
the Cardinals first down at the Arizona 6.
On the first throw into the end zone, Holmes couldn't hang on.
He slapped the ground after the ball slipped through his hands,
then headed back to huddle.
Roethlisberger didn't lose confidence in his third-year
receiver. He looked that way again. Holmes came through.
"I said to him that I wanted to be the guy to make the plays
for this team," Holmes said. "Great players step up in big-time
games to make plays."
They don't get any bigger than this.