East Rutherford, United States: Critics told Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson he was too short to play the position, and many thought a hip injury would sideline Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin all season. Now both are Super Bowl champions thanks to their perseverance.
Wilson threw two touchdown passes, while Harvin returned the second-half kick-off 87 yards for a touchdown on Sunday as Seattle thrashed Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl 48.
Wilson, 25, is in only his second National Football League season after being a third-round NFL Draft pick, in part because he stands just under six feet (1.8m).
“So many people told me I couldn’t do it,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of surreal. I wanted to go against the odds and it’s just tremendous. It feels unbelievable.”
Wilson became only the second African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl after Doug Williams, who guided Washington to the 1988 Super Bowl title.
“That’s history right there,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Latino, Asian.
“It doesn’t matter how many people tell you no. It’s the heart you have. That’s what I try to prove every day.”
Harvin made his big play after missing most of the season following hip surgery.
“It’s unreal, I can’t even explain it,” Harvin said. “It’s incredible. It means everything to me. The way this team stood behind me, backed me up all year, it means a lot.
“They had so much belief in me even when I wasn’t practicing.”
Wilson completed 18-of-25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and together with a relentless defence that forced four turnovers, they brought Seattle a first Super Bowl title and a downtown victory parade on Wednesday.
“Russell played great,” receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “It just shows the type of leadership he has. No matter what’s going on, he’s always in the game, trying to get better.”
Wilson has had a lot to prove since his youth, when he learned lessons at a camp sponsored by Peyton Manning that he used against him as a Super Bowl rival.
“I believe in myself,” Wilson said. “My confidence was never going to waiver. I was going to go after it with everything I had.
“It’s unbelievable. We wanted to say, ‘Why not us?’ We believed in that. It was real for us. We were here for a reason.”
Wilson’s attitude summed up the cast-off feeling the unfancied Seahawks thrived upon.
“He’s a baller,” receiver Golden Tate said of Wilson. “For everybody that said we’re not the main dish, check it out. We came up big. Eat your words.”
The Seahawks talk of playing for the 12, meaning their supporters, the ‘12th Man’, who are known for their loud screaming.
So it was an omen that they scored 12 seconds into the game and second half, the first coming on a safety after an errant Denver snap at the start. The second came on Harvin’s kick return.
“I really couldn’t believe it,” Harvin said. “When I broke through and I saw the endzone, I really couldn’t believe it.”
Kearse said the whole team knew Harvin was ready to make a big play and his runback brought a 29-0 lead and dimmed Denver’s comeback hopes.
“He didn’t play throughout the season but I knew the type of player Percy is,” Kearse said. “He was going to fight back. He was going to get healthy and when he was he came out and he made the plays we needed, especially that kick-off return.”