For the ninth time in Super Bowl history, the Super Bowl MVP is a defensive player, as Von Miller becomes the 10th player to play defense and win the award, joining greats like Randy White, Ray Lewis and Richard Dent who all did in the past.
And why nine times but 10 players? Well, as you’ll see with the list below, the Dallas Cowboys tend to do special things when it comes to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl V – Chuck Howley, Linebacker
Howley is the only player (and probably will remain that way) to win the Super Bowl MVP despite being on the losing team, playing for the Dallas Cowboys in a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts. Howley had two interceptions off of Johnny Unitas in that game, which wasn’t enough for the Cowboys. He retired with one Super Bowl victory, six Pro Bowl selections and five times being an All-Pro first team selection.
Super Bowl VII – Jake Scott, Safety
Like Howley, Scott won his Super Bowl MVP thanks to a couple of interceptions, which seems to be the golden standard when it comes to defensive backs getting recognition in the big game. Scott came up big for the Miami Dolphins capping off their perfect season in 1972, beating the Washington Redskins 14-7 in the Super Bowl. He and the Dolphins repeated as champions a year later as well. He retired with five Pro Bowl selections and five selections to the two different All-Pro teams.
Super Bowl XII – Harvey Martin (Defensive End) & Randy White (Defensive Tackle)
When the Dallas Cowboys won their second Super Bowl by beating the Denver Broncos, they set another precedent: The only time two players split the MVP award. Martin had two sacks in that game, part of an 11-year career in Dallas that included being the defensive player of the year once, making four Pro Bowl teams and four All-Pro teams. White is in the hall of fame, making the Pro Bowl and the First team All-Pro nine times.
Super Bowl XX – Richard Dent, Defensive End
A hall of fame inductee, Dent won the MVP for his performance in the 46-10 win by the Chicago Bears against the New England Patriots, but also for his overall performance in that postseason, finishing with a total of six sacks. He added another Super Bowl ring to his hand with the San Francisco 49ers nine years later, and retired with four Pro Bowl and four All-Pro selections.
Super Bowl XXX – Larry Brown, Cornerback
Maybe the most unremarkable player on this list, Brown won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, and picked up the MVP for two interceptions in the 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Super Bowl XXXV – Ray Lewis, Linebacker
The Baltimore Ravens beating the New York Giants 34-7 could have ended with a lot of different players on the Ravens defense winning that MVP. But Lewis, with four tackles in that game and blocked four passes as well, was the leader of that unit, and led an incredible effort, still one of the best in Super Bowl history. He’ll be in the hall of fame once he’s eligible, winning another Super Bowl before retiring and making 13 Pro Bowl selections while being a 7-time first-team All-Pro.
Super Bowl XXXVII – Dexter Jackson, Safety
Like Brown, Jackson didn’t have a remarkable career. No Pro Bowl selections. No All-Pro mentions. Like Lewis, it didn’t necessarily have to be him on a day the Tampa Bay Buccaneers crushed the Oakland Raiders 48-21. But he had two interceptions, and as we said, that’s the magic number in Super Bowls for defensive backs.
Super Bowl XLVIII – Malcolm Smith, Linebacker
Smith was part of a remarkable defensive unit that led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl trophy as they ran all over the Denver Broncos in a 43-8 win. Smith made himself noticed with an interception he returned 69 yards for a touchdown. He’s no longer with the Seahawks, playing for the Oakland Raiders in 2015.
Super Bowl 50 – Von Miller, Linebacker
Miller was injured in that postseason run that ended in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He made up for his absence in the 2016 playoffs, finishing with five sacks in two games, including 2.5 as the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 to win a third Super Bowl for the franchise and their first in 17 years. The 26-year old has had a remarkable career so far (began in 2011) with four Pro Bowl selections and four All-Pro selections (First & second teams), with 60 sacks in his five seasons.