No shrine has been built yet.
When Malcolm Smith walks into his Seattle digs, two footballs sit on a table near the door: the one he intercepted to seal the NFC title game and the one he returned 69 yards for a pick-six in the Super Bowl.
The latter was a big reason Smith was named Super Bowl MVP, which sent him on a post-Super Bowl whirlwind.
Monday morning after the Super Bowl — following an expansive party at the team hotel with owner Paul Allen playing guitar — Smith was next to head coach Pete Carroll holding trophies. Smith showed off his MVP hardware, Carroll sat with the Lombardi Trophy.
They’ve known each other since Smith was in fifth grade, before Carroll coached him at USC, then the Seahawks.
“Obviously, I’ve learned a lot from him as my coach,” Smith said. “He has to be considered one of the greatest (football) coaches and teachers in history now. I think it’s pretty cool.
“It wasn’t like we had some moment in awe. I think we both agreed it was pretty cool. Not amazed, but realized it was special. You have those moments where you get to realize you accomplished something.”
Later that afternoon, Smith was going through Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with Mickey Mouse riding shotgun. He’s been on Jimmy Kimmel Live with Richard Sherman, and even approached by TMZ when leaving a Los Angeles-area P.F. Chang’s.
Though, TMZ didn’t rattle the Los Angeles native. He’s said it’s a byproduct of living there he’s accustomed to.
It has been a rapid change for Smith, who was rarely on the field prior to K.J. Wright’s foot injury in Week 14. He rarely left it after. He has moved from the fourth linebacker who hardly played in Week 13, to making two of the biggest plays in Seahawks history.
As part of being Super Bowl MVP, Smith won a Chevrolet Silverado. He’s giving it to his mom, which is perhaps his favorite thing to come from the Super Bowl run.
“Giving the car to my mom is pretty cool,” Smith said. “I think it will actually be pretty awesome when it shows up at her house. Having my brother (former New York Giants receiver Steve) on the field with me after we won the Super Bowl, that was cool. Just getting to be able to enjoy the parade with the linebackers, our group. I think that was pretty cool.”
One of the most rewarding things for Smith was the success that came following extra work. He said the linebackers would hold their own meeting every Tuesday, which is a day off for players.
“We’re scheduling meetings as a group and we’re writing on the board so when the defense comes in they can see stuff,” Smith said.
In a week, Smith, 24, will be relaxing and the NFL Combine will be at its full hypothetical best. He wasn’t invited to the Combine when he came out of USC, something he graciously pointed out when asked after the Super Bowl what his 40-yard dash time was there.
As the 242nd overall pick in 2011, Smith can be added to the ever-increasing line of Seahawks passed up in early portions of the NFL draft.
“They will draft guys in the first round who will be busts and never have the careers they expect to have because of human nature or weaknesses they might have,” Smith said. “Learning, dedication, passion. Those are things that can’t be measured, so you don’t really blame those people.”
Any talk of the draft naturally leads to a conversation about Michael Sam, who, if he is drafted and makes a team, will be the first openly gay player in the NFL.
The day of Sam’s announcement, Smith tweeted, “There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.” He wasn’t just speaking specifically about Sam.
“It was about the fact the Redskins’ name is what it is; the fact that Jonathan Martin doesn’t feel comfortable; the fact that Marcus Smart is being called names on the sideline,” Smith said. “It was more about all those things than just him. I think that’s just another example, Michael Sam coming out. We need to face things head on and be a little bit more responsible about the way we see things.
“Beyond the way people feel about it, how teammates will accept him, the fact is he’s a good player. He deserves his opportunity to play in the NFL. Everything else is secondary.”
The NFL is the most cutthroat and violent league in America. Lockerroom interaction often reflects that. How that environment will adapt to Sam — and he to it — is one of the main questions around Sam’s coming out.
“I think it will naturally work itself out because in the lockerroom you develop these relationships with people personally,” Smith said. “You know them. You don’t just call them a (swear word) from across the room because it’s a random guy you’ve never met before. You have conversations, so you feel like you can say that.
“I think if he has a problem, I think he’s a man and he’ll voice the fact that something is being said, and he’ll let it be known. I think it will be squashed. There’s always conflict between people and they’ll talk it out, usually, in the lockerroom. I think that’s how it would be handled. He’s obviously a guy who knows himself well and is pretty confident. I’m sure he can handle those issues.”
Smith also points out another factor.
“He’s a big, strong dude. I don’t think he’s going to be afraid of anybody.”
Finally, Smith’s media tour is over almost two weeks after the game ended. He’ll relax a bit, maybe head home to Los Angeles, before starting to work out again. No more late-night talk shows or tours of fantasy lands.
“Back to the norm for me now,” Smith said.