Don't blink. Not even for a second.
If you do, come Super Bowl Sunday, you'll run the risk of missing something incredible happen between two of the fastest players in the NFL, Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Sam Shields of the Green Bay Packers.
Wallace is more of a household name. The former third-round pick out of Ole Miss found his way onto countless fantasy rosters by the end of his rookie year en route to a 756-yard, six-touchdown campaign.
Nearing the end of this, his sophomore season, Wallace has become one of the most feared wide receivers in the NFL and a truly elite deep threat, posting 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns—an average of 21 yards per catch, best in the AFC.
Sam Shields has had a much different path to stardom. The rookie corner out of the University of Miami was considered a bust in college, but not on the defensive side of the ball.
Shields was one of the top wide receiver recruits in the nation in 2005 after leading Brooker High School in Sarasota, FL to the Class 3A State Championship. After amassing just 75 catches and less than 1,000 yards over three seasons in Coral Gables, Shields was moved to cornerback for his senior year and was voted the Canes' most improved player.
Despite his gains, when the NFL draft rolled around Shields was still considered raw. He was the fastest prospect under draft consideration after running a 4.2 40-yard dash at his pro day. But no team saw fit to "waste" even a seventh-round pick on such a project.
The Packers signed Shields as an undrafted free agent, probably hoping to use him as an explosive return man after he embarrassed the Wisconsin coverage team on the opening kickoff of the Champs Sports Bowl (see video on right).
Green Bay has stumbled upon one of the most talented young defensive backs in the National Football League. Shields has been having early success playing against men despite his inability to even break down game film (one of the many apparent blunders of the Randy Shannon era in Miami). Joe Whitt, Shields' cornerbacks coach in Green Bay, has gone so far as to say, "Sam is going to be one of the top corners in this league in two years."
Like Mike Wallace, Sam Shields is dripping with talent. Used primarily as a nickel corner during the regular season, Shields exploded last week in the NFC Championship Game, recording two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble. He became just the fifth player since 1982 (when sacks were first recorded) to accomplish such a single-game feat.
With his profile emerging, Shields is a player you must keep one eye on at all times. His breakout performance against the Bears could lead to an even bigger role on the bigger stage: the task of shadowing Mike Wallace for the whole game.
Hines Ward will likely be covered by Charles Woodson, and while Tramon Williams is a fine player, he doesn't possess the speed to keep up with Wallace all over the field.
Both Sam Shields and Mike Wallace underachieved in college. Both players have been NFL success stories. Both have super elite speed—and both need to make an impact if their team is going to raise the Lombardi Trophy. One of them may well change the outcome of the game with a big play.
The other will walk away in frustration, winded, with his hands on his hips and shaking his head in complete disbelief that he wasn't the faster man.
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