My frame of a collective sports memory reaches back as long as the Super Bowl has been played.
I can distinctly remember the cold, snowy day (for me) from Super Bowl I on Jan. 15, 1967, at our home in Indiana. I was 7 years old, but I knew it was something big because the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers was being shown on two television networks at the same time. There was more snow as we tried to adjust our rabbit ears on the television set for a better picture.
Since then, I've been able to watch almost all of the Super Bowls. There might have been one I missed because I had to work for a friend who was getting married that day. But I have seen and digested almost every play of every Super Bowl over the years.
With my narrow frame of the Big 12 conference, it got me thinking earlier this week about which performances in the history of the NFL's biggest game have been the most memorable or most infamous that involved alumni of the conference's schools.
Here is what I came up with.
1. Mike Jones, St. Louis linebacker (Missouri): His stop of Tennessee's Kevin Dyson only inches short of the goal line on the game's final play preserved the Rams' 23-16 triumph over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. It is one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. Heck, it was one of the most memorable in NFL history.
2. Timmy Smith, Washington Redskins running back (Texas Tech): He erupted for a Super Bowl record 204 rushing yards on 22 carries, including runs of 58 and 43 yards, to key the Redskins' 42-10 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXII.
3. John Riggins, Washington running back (Kansas): Rushed for 166 yards on a Super Bowl-record 38 carries to power the Redskins to a 27-17 victory over Miami in Super Bowl XVII. Riggins gave the Redskins the lead for good on a 43-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 blast early in the fourth quarter, wrapping up an MVP performance that remains the only one earned by a player from a Big 12 school.
4. Roger Craig, San Francisco running back (Nebraska): Craig was a member of three Super Bowl championship teams with the 49ers and had several strong performances. But his biggest was a three-touchdown effort against Miami in Super Bowl XIX. Craig ran for 58 yards and a touchdown and also snagged a team-high seven receptions for 77 yards and two scores to pace the 49ers to a 38-16 victory.
5. Wes Welker, New England wide receiver (Texas Tech): Welker's team dropped a disappointing 17-14 game to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, but it wasn't because of his lack of effort. Welker matched the Super Bowl record with 11 receptions for 103 yards, but it still wasn't enough to lead his team to victory.
But as strong as those efforts were, other players from Big 12 schools didn't fare nearly as well in their Super Bowl moments. Here are the five most infamous moments or performances from a Big 12 player in Super Bowl history.
1. Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State) loses his helmet: The College and Pro Football Hall of Famer had one of the most notorious moments of his career when he lost his helmet at the start of Super Bowl XXVI against Washington. Typically, Thomas placed his helmet at the 40-yard-line before a game, but it was moved in order for a stage to be set up for Harry Connick Jr.'s rendition of the national anthem before the game. He scrambled to find his helmet, causing him to miss Buffalo's first two plays from scrimmage. It was the start of a miserable performance in which he rushed for only 13 yards on 10 carries in a 37-24 loss to the Redskins.
2. Jack Pardee's (Texas A&M) long ride on Larry Csonka's back: The veteran Washington linebacker was hoisted for nearly 30 yards by Miami fullback Larry Csonka on a pivotal 49-yard run in Super Bowl VI. The play has been replayed in countless NFL Films showings over the years as emblematic of the Dolphins' domination in the 14-7 victory. Even worse, it was the final game of Pardee's proud 15-season career.
3. Justin Hartwig’s (Kansas) holding call in the end zone almost cost the Steelers: Pittsburgh was poised to ice its Super Bowl XLIII victory after Ben Roethlisberger's 19-yard pass got them out of a third-and-10 hole from their own 1-yard line late in the game against Arizona. But Hartwig was flagging for holding in the end zone on the play, leading to a safety that pulled the Cardinals within 20-16. Even worse, Arizona stormed back to take the lead two plays later when Kurt Warner hooked up with Larry Fitzgerald on a 64-yard TD pass.
Hartwig was saved from being one of the biggest goats in Super Bowl history when Roethlisberger marched the Steelers on a game-winning touchdown drive, capping it with a 6-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left. Otherwise, we would still be hearing about Hartwig’s bonehead play -- the only time an offensive lineman has been flagged for holding in the end zone in Super Bowl history.
4. Donny Anderson (Texas Tech) levels the "The Hammer": Before Super Bowl I, Kansas City defensive back Fred "The Hammer" Williamson vowed that he would knock out a Green Bay player with "his hammer," a well-placed forearm shiver. Instead, Green Bay running back Donny Anderson, a former Texas Tech player, caused a concussion for Williamson when his knee collided with Williamson's head early in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl I. Williamson also suffered a broken arm on the play when his teammate, linebacker Sherrill Headrick, fell on top of him. The play has been immortalized by NFL Films for the reaction of Anderson's Green Bay teammates along the sidelines after it occurred.
5. Boyd Dowler's (Colorado) injury makes Max McGee's career: We never would have heard about McGee's pregame carousing before Super Bowl I if Dowler hadn't separated his shoulder early and been forced out of the game. McGee grabbed seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Packers to a 35-10 victory over Kansas City, becoming a wealthy man from his restaurant franchises and broadcasting career that capitalized on his one game of glory. Dowler didn't have a catch in the game.