Since 1967 in the inaugural Super Bowl, there has been a player that has stood out higher than any other player in the biggest game professional football has to offer.
Hall of Famers, Pro Bowlers and one-game wonders have made names for themselves on the biggest stage of them all. It is a fraternity that instantly becomes the moniker that players are remembered for.
Before Sunday's big game between the Packers and Steelers, someone will join the club, but who will it be? There have been 40 men that have won this award and left millions in awe of their talents.
So, the best of the best on the big stage were ranked on careers not single game performances. Obviously, who is the best is up for debate and often times is hard to determine because of many factors. But, with 17 out of the 40 in the Hall of Fame and a couple more from this generation going in future years, it is a list to behold.
No one could have predicted that Doug Williams would have produced one of the great Super Bowl performances of all time. He passed for 340 yards and four touchdowns in the game against the legendary John Elway.
That was the highlight of Williams' career as he did not have a long stay as the Redskins starter. Williams was also the first and only African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl at quarterback to this point in time.
On an electric and dominant Bucs defense that swarmed Rich Gannon in the Super Bowl win over the Raiders. But, above the rest, Dextor Jackson stood out with two interceptions of the five thrown by Gannon in the 48-21 victory.
Dexter Jackson went to free agency and almost went to the Steelers before going to the Cardinals (Steelers then drafted a guy named Troy Polamalu). Jackson has since been with other teams including a stint in the UFL.
The Cardinals all-time rusher, Ottis Anderson may be remembered by some for that fact, but for most, it would be the fact that he was the MVP in the Giants victory over Buffalo. In that game, he rushed for 102 yards and had a touchdown.
The former Rookie of the Year got to two Pro Bowls in his career before he re-emerged later on with the Giants.
Sharing a name with a famous basketball coach, Larry Brown may not be recognized for being the most well-known as Larry Brown, but for one day during Super Bowl XXX, he was the best. In that game, Brown had two interceptions in the Cowboys victory over the Steelers.
He would end up cashing in on his great game for a short stay with the Raiders before retiring a couple of seasons later. Though he may not be an NFL great, he will be held in high regard by Cowboys fans forever.
The third wide receiver to win Super Bowl MVP, Santonio Holmes came up with one of the great touchdowns that anyone will ever see in a Super Bowl. While the most memorable moment of that game will be James Harrison's scamper for a touchdown, Holmes caught nine catches for 131 yards and an amazing touchdown.
Holmes, after some legal troubles, has moved on from Pittsburgh and is now a member of the Jets where he had a very good season in 2010.
The only special teams player to ever win the Super Bowl MVP, Desmond Howard was the fourth Heisman Trophy winner to come away with the most valuable player honor. Many think back to the Packers win over the Patriots and believe Brett Favre was the MVP, but it was Howard's 99-yard kick return that sealed the Pack victory.
Desmond would end up bouncing around the NFL to six different teams in his career but was able to make the Pro Bowl in 2000 before retiring in 2002 with the Lions.
It had been 16 years since a wide receiver was named the Super Bowl MVP, and Deion Branch would be the man to break that slump. The only player not named Tom Brady to be Super Bowl MVP in a Pats championship, Branch tied the record for most catches in the big game with 11 against the Eagles.
Being named Super Bowl MVP was, and is, the high point in Deion Branch's career. After a medicore stint with the Seahawks, he has returned to the Patriots and has continued to be one of Tom Brady's all-time favorite targets.
The first Canadien or foreign born player to win the MVP honor in the Super Bowl, Mark Rypien had an amazing game and season in which he led the Redskins to another title under Joe Gibbs. In the victory over the Bills, Rypien threw for 292 yards as well as two touchdowns.
In that season, he was also named the Offensive MVP of the NFL and was in two Pro Bowls in his career with eight NFL teams.
One of the few players to play high school, college and professionally in the Dallas area, Harvey Martin was a supreme pass rusher of his day and was a key piece of the Cowboys defense in the 1970s. He was the co-winner of the MVP award with his teammate Randy White for the Boys' that season.
He also went to four Pro Bowls in his career, along with being named to the All-Decade team and was an Defensive MVP one season. Sadly, he is currently the only MVP of the Super Bowl who has passed away as of January 2011.
One of the few players that have won the prestigious Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP. Plunkett was a star player at Stanford who did not have the success with the Patriots that many imagined he would have. But in his Super Bowl MVP game, he tore apart the Eagles defense and was able to throw three touchdowns.
After battling for the starting job for several seasons, Plunkett led the Raiders to another title a few seasons later before battling injuries.
In one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history (Patriots were favored by 12), Eli Manning had an outstanding game and was a part of the greatest Super Bowl plays of all-time. He passed for 255 yards in the game and also tossed two touchdowns as well.
Eli has been a very good quarterback since turning down being a Charger on draft day. He has made a Pro Bowl appearance and has become the face of the Giants organization.
One of the great cornerbacks in Georgia history along with Champ Bailey, Jake Scott is one of the key members of the famed 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins team. Though he started his career in the CFL, Scott was at his best with the Dolphins and later the Redskins.
He had two interceptions in the Super Bowl win over the Redskins including a key play in the fourth quarter. He would finish his career going to five Pro Bowls and was a member of the Dolphins championship in Super Bowl VIII.
Many fans know Phil Simms from his current announcing skills alongside Jim Nantz, but before that, he was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who played his entire career with the Giants. He will forever be remembered for his Super Bowl performance in the XXI game where he was MVP and threw three touchdowns.
He was a two-time Pro Bowler in his career and would go onto being apart of another Giants team that won a Super Bowl but was in a much lesser role.
The man who's legacy resides over the best collegiate receiver of the year also was a star and Hall of Famer as a professional as well. Fred Bilenikoff. The Raiders won big over the Vikings in the Super Bowl, and despite not catching a touchdown pass in the game, Biletnikoff was named MVP.
He was named to six Pro Bowls in his career which was played for the Oakland Raiders and for a brief stay in Montreal.
Most of the people that are MVP's of the Super Bowl have something in common, and that is they are also members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Richard Dent has been close to getting into Canton before in recent years to no avail. But, Chicago fans will always have him in their Hall of Fame after his performance in Super Bowl XX. In the Bears blowout of the Patriots, Dent had two sacks and two forced fumbles.
In the end of his career, Dent ranked among the best pass rushers in the history of the game with 137 career sacks by career's end. This added to his four Pro Bowl appearances made him a force to reckon with.
The first player to not be a quarterback to win the Super Bowl MVP honor, Chuck Howley, is still thought of as perhaps the greatest linebacker in Cowboys history. Even more remarkable it was and is the only time a player on a losing team has won the MVP.
Howley intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in the loss to the Colts. Howley would go on to being in six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Ring of Honor for the Cowboys and won a Super Bowl in Super Bowl VI.
In what was a thrilling Super Bowl with the Packers and Broncos, it would come down to Terrell Davis who was suffering from migraine's which made him miss the second quarter. He rushed for over 150 yards in the game and rushed for a Super Bowl record three touchdowns as well.
In his brief NFL career, Terrell Davis did more than 15-year veterans could accomplish. He won two Super Bowls, went to three Pro Bowls and was the NFL MVP in 1998.
The first wide receiver to be named the MVP of the Super Bowl, Lynn Swann was also a member of the four Steelers teams that captured the titles in the 70s. Swann caught four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown that day in a four-point victory over the Cowboys.
Swann would go to three Pro Bowls, be an All-Decade and Hall of Fame selection in his career.
One of the most decorated defensive players in football history, Randy White truly did it in his time on the football field. He was named co-Super Bowl MVP with his teammate Harvey Martin in one of the better defenses seen in the NFL.
The Hall of Famer went to nine Pro Bowls in his career along with being an All-Decade player.
He has broken records held by past Hall of Famers in Steelers history and has stepped above their accomplishments to become perhaps the greatest wideout in Steelers history. In the Super Bowl win over the Seahawks, he caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Hines has made four Pro Bowls in his career and three times been named the team MVP for the Steelers. And, in his time as a Steeler, he has always given his all in every phase of the game and is considered by many to be the best blocking wide receiver ever.
The "Cinderella Story" of Cinderella stories in NFL history starts and ends with Kurt Warner and the magical season he had in leading the Rams to the dramatic Super Bowl win over the Titans. Kurt passed for a record 414 yards in the game and set a record for most passes without an interception. He also became a part of a small club of players who won the MVP award during the season and in the Super Bowl.
He was named to four Pro Bowls and was AP MVP on two different occasions. Time will tell if his career will land him in the Hall of Fame, but it is very likely there will be a new bust in Canton with Kurt Warner's like-ness on it in coming years.
One of the hardest runners the game has seen, Larry Csonka, had one of the best rushing performances in Super Bowl history in the games eighth installment. The Hall of Famer had 33 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings.
Csonka made it to five Pro Bowls in his career which featured a short stint in the short-lived WFL league, before returning to the NFL.
The "leader of Who Dat? Nation" Drew Brees has risen to become one of the elite quarterbacks of his generation. In his Super Bowl win with the Saints over Peyton Manning's Colts, Brees tied the record for completions and threw two touchdowns in the game.
Brees is putting together quite the resume for the people of Canton, Ohio to look at after his career is over. He has made it to five Pro Bowls and has been the MVP of the NFC twice.
Not many players have taken a hold of a Super Bowl like John Riggins was able to do for the Redskins in 1983. Riggins set the record for most yards rushed in a Super Bowl and set the record for touches.
The hard-running Riggins was later named to the Hall of Fame and was a Pro Bowler in his career.
No one could have predicted, nor foreseen, that the Jets could have overcome a pregame 19-point underdog position. Joe Namath made one of the most memorable guarantees in football history when he said the Jets would come away with the victory.
The Jets ended up winning by nine points, and Namath despite not having a marvelous game statistically was named the MVP of Super Bowl III. He would go onto the being elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985.
The upcoming Super Bowl will feature Troy Aikman in the booth calling the game before a televised audience in the hundreds of millions. The big stage is nothing new for Aikman though as he was a Super Bowl MVP in his first big game in a blowout against the Buffalo Bills. In that win, Aikman threw for four touchdowns.
The Hall of Famer went to six Pro Bowls in his career and was the starter for the Boys' in three Super Bowl wins.
One of his four Super Bowls wins, his first of the four featured the great Franco Harris winning the Super Bowl MVP award. The Vikings had no match for Harris that day as he was able to rush for 158 yards; which was more yards than Minnesota's entire offense.
Harris would be named to nine Pro Bowls and would be an All-Decade selection for the 1970s. He was best known for his "Immaculate Reception."
As accomplished as any quarterback can dream of being, Roger Staubach was one of the greats in college and as QB for the Cowboys. The 1963 Heisman Trophy winner went on to having a Hall of Fame career in the NFL including being the MVP of Super Bowl VI.
The Cowboys beat up the Dolphins in that game 24-3 in which Roger Staubach tossed a pair of touchdowns. Staubach would end up going to six Pro Bowls and would be named to the All-Decade team for the 1970s.
Hall of Famer in college and the pro's. MVP of the Super Bowl and winner of the Heisman Trophy. Not quite a bad bunch of accomplishments for Marcus Allen. In his MVP game, he rushed for the record at the time with 191 yards, and until Willie Parker broke it, had the longest run in Super Bowl history.
Marcus Allen was a league MVP in 1985 and went to six Pro Bowls.
The lefty Hall of Famer finally had his moment in the Sun when he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl as starting quarterback over the Chargers. In the blowout Super Bowl, Young set the record with six touchdown passes, with four coming in one half. He also led the game in rushing.
In his career, he made eight Pro Bowls and was the league MVP twice.
A Hall of Famer who led the Chiefs to an upset over the Vikings in Super Bowl IV, Lenny Dawson proved to be one of the best of his time in a game in which Hank Stram's Chiefs pounded the talented Vikings team.
Dawson did not have as good of a game as he did in the Super Bowl I loss, but he did what his team needed and led them to a victory. He would go onto to be named to the AFL second team all time and still to this day is regarded as the Chiefs pre-emminent quarterback.
Not many players won the MVP of the Super Bowl in two different Super Bowls. But, Terry Bradshaw did just that; not to mention he was the quarterback of the team in another two Super Bowl victories. He was named a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his playing days had ended.
Bradshaw had a very interesting game in his first MVP honor, turning the ball over several times, but in the end, threw for four touchdowns. He was also the league MVP that season as well. In his second MVP in the "big game," he again had a couple turnovers but played good enough to beat the Los Angeles Rams.
Considered to among the group of greatest linebackers in the history of football, Ray Lewis became the second linebacker ever to win Super Bowl MVP and was the first to do so on the winning team. In the Ravens domination of the Giants, contributing big time with 11 tackles and four blocked passes.
The future Hall of Famer has made it to 12 Pro Bowls thus far into his career and since has accomplished everything that a player could acheive in his career. He has been named twice Defensive Player of the Year and was also a member of the All-Decade team for the 2000s.
In listing the great feats that No. 18 has done in his on-going career, it is a list to behold for sure. But, one thing in his career that he could not seem to reach was a Super Bowl, and against the Bears, he acheived that feat. Peyton had a very efficient game as always passing for 247 yards and a touchdown.
The future Hall of Famer will in fact go down as one of the five best players to ever line up behind center in many people's books. He has made the Pro Bowl in 11 seasons, and since coming to the Colts as a rookie, has been league MVP four different seasons.
It was truly magical the way that John Elway went out in his career. Not simply stepping to the side in his last game, John Elway became the oldest person to ever win Super Bowl MVP with a 336 yards passing and one touchdown performance. He also rushed for a touchdown as well in the win over the the Falcons.
The Hall of Famer went to the Pro Bowl nine times, was league MVP and was named to the All-Decade team of the 90s.
In the history books for rushing yards, one name currently stands higher than anyone elses. With 18,355 yards in his career, Emmitt Smith is undoubtely one of the best running backs of all time. Emmitt won his Super Bowl MVP against the Bills, in which he ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
The Hall of Famer and 1993 league MVP also made it to eight Pro Bowls in his career.
Tom Brady has evolved into one of the greatest of all time. But, what seems like ages ago, he was a backup behind Drew Bledsoe. When he got his chance, he led the Pats to a thrilling last second victory over the Rams. He also was the MVP of what many call the greatest Super Bowl of them all against the Panthers in which he passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
The six-time Pro Bowler has gained MVP honors, three Super Bowls and All-Decade honors in his decade of dominance in New England, and it surely has not come to a close.
Among all-time legends, Bart Starr ranks among the best of all time at the quarterback position. The Hall of Fame quarterback out of Alabama won the first and second Super Bowl MVP honors leading the Packers to the championship. Along with other Hall of Famers and legendary coach Vince Lombardi, Starr had already won five championships before the first Super Bowl was played.
In the first Super Bowl in the victory over Len Dawson's Chiefs, Starr threw for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In the second Super Bowl victory, Starr threw 202 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Raiders.
If you ask many football fans in their 30s and 40s who the best Super Bowl quarterback of all time is, then you are going to get a lot of reponses that will say Joe Montana. The man who won three Super Bowl MVP's always had a flare for the dramatic in the big game.
In the first MVP, he defeated the Bengals throwing for one touchdown and also rushing for one. Montana was even more brilliant in his second MVP award against the Dolphins where he threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns against Dan Marino's team. He was even better in his final Super Bowl, in the whooping of the Broncos when he tossed five touchdowns.
The Hall of Famer was a 75th anniversery team member, two-time MVP, eight-time Pro Bowler among many other honors in his outstanding career.
In what was the greatest wide receiver of all time's greatest Super Bowl appearance, Jerry Rice led the 49ers to a victory over the Bengals. Rice caught 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown. Most remember the touchdown strike to John Taylor as most will remember from that Super Bowl, but Jerry Rice was dominant that day, like most days.
As far as accomplishments in his career, Rice ranks atop every major receiving category there is and is considered by many to be the greatest football player of all time.