No. 26 Shows World He Can Play The Game
It was checkout time at the Hilton Torrey Pines Hotel. The Bucs were boarding their buses Monday morning, still aglow from beating the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Dwight Smith lingered at the front desk. He spotted The San Diego Union-Tribune's Super Bowl section (``STEAL CURTAIN'') that featured a huge photo of himself after returning an interception 50 yards for a touchdown. He picked up USA Today. There was another story and photo about No. 26.
As he decompressed from the victory in his hotel room, Smith quietly watched the game highlights on ESPN. There was Dwight Smith, returning a third-quarter interception 44 yards for a score. And then, with the game winding down, he found the end zone again. Dwight Smith, once a question mark at nickel back, had become the only player in Super Bowl history with a pair of interception returns for touchdowns. ``I really can't believe it,'' said Smith, a third-round pick in the 2001 draft.
Not that he ever doubted his ability. Smith, from Akron, Ohio, is supremely confident on the outside. On the inside, too, he said. And now, no matter what, he'll always have those Super Bowl moments. Free safety Dexter Jackson, who also had two interceptions, was selected the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player. The voting was official before Smith's late return, which added more icing to the 48-21 result. ``I don't care about that [MVP],'' Smith said. ``I just wanted to win. I just wanted to show I could play this game.''
Smith played a good portion of the game because the Raiders relied on three-receiver sets. Overall, Tampa Bay's secondary had five interceptions and limited Tim Brown to one catch. ``People were skeptical about me playing the position,'' Smith said. ``I've heard that all year. They didn't think I could fill the shoes that Donnie Abraham [now with the Jets] had left. It feels good to prove people wrong. Not because I wanted them to be wrong - hey, they just don't know me - but to show people I could do it. That I wasn't some fluke player.''
Smith said he particularly enjoyed watching replays of his second interception. Jon Gruden raced down the sideline with him, then did a little dance in celebration. ``It was Dwight's night to shine,'' Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles said. ``Here's a guy who runs down on the kickoffs and works his tail off on special teams. This was the time for him to get some big-time opportunities, and he ran with them.''
All the way to the end zone.