Darren Sharper’s statistics from Super Bowl XLIV paled in comparison to those he’s put up during a 13-year career as one of pro football’s best safeties.
But Sharper, ’97, came away from the New Orleans Saints’ 31-17 victory over Indianapolis Sunday with what mattered most.
The Lombardi Trophy.
Sharper, who led the NFL with 9 interceptions this season and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time, had just two tackles and one assist in the Saints’ come-from-behind victory in Miami.
But a large part of his lack of production can be attributed to the respect Sharper received from Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning. Sharper has 63 career interceptions, and this season accumulated an NFL-record 376 interception-return yards.
Manning and coach Jim Caldwell figured it was better to try and pick on someone else.
It was Sharper’s second trip to a Super Bowl. As a rookie with the Green Bay Packers in 1997, he was on the short end of the score.
“I was a naïve rookie back then, thinking I’d get back (several times),” Sharper said before the game. “That’s one of the things I’ve talked a lot about, that this is a special time and to make sure that you do all that you can to win this game.”
Super Bowl Sunday didn’t go nearly as well for Indianapolis assistant coach Alan Williams, ’92, the Colts’ defensive backfield coach. Williams’ secondary was picked apart by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP.
But Williams has something to fall back on: a Super Bowl champion’s ring from Indianapolis’ victory in 2007.