Earlier this week, former New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle reflected on his life infootball in a colorful essay posted onThe Players Tribune.
The former three-time Pro Bowler touched on a wide swath of topics, from his parents' advice to his early growing pains to his lifelong friendship with the late Sean Taylor, a former college teammate at the University of Miami who first befriended him in youth football in his hometown of Homestead, Fla.
But Rolle also played in two of the most memorable Super Bowls since the turn of the new millennium, and his recounting of the wild catches that defined both of them is especially entertaining.
Of Santonio Holmes' game-winning touchdown catch for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIII against the Cardinals, Rolle was incredulous that the Super Bowl MVP managed to come down with the ballinbounds at the back pylon:
The Steelers had run that same play three times earlier in the game and Roethlisberger didn't connect once. This time, they switched the side of the field and they ran it with Holmes. The ironic thing is that Roethlisberger was looking at Nate Washington on his first read, and I jumped the route. He cocked his arm to throw it to him. But Nate slipped. Roethlisberger literally just pulled the ball down and threw the it to the corner of the end zone instead. We had perfect coverage on that route.
I turned my head and saw him make the catch, and I'm like, Clearly he's out of bounds. Until I saw the replay. My heart just fell to my stomach.
Rolle actually gives the New England secondary the benefit of the doubt on Mario Manningham's stupendous, tip-toe sideline catch that sparked the Giants' fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl XLVI:
As a defensive back, let me just say this: The safety played it perfectly. I mean, out of 100, I would give him a 105 for that coverage. It was that on point. It was just a case of great offense beating great defense. Eli hit what we call the honey-hole, the exact spot in the defense where the coverage is softest.
I still see that play to this day, years after we won the Super Bowl. And even though I know we won, I have the same reaction every time. "Damn. How the hell did he make that catch?"
One of Rolle's favorite teammates in Arizona, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, currently roams the secondary for Rolle's former Giants. The two had a lot of fun together with the Cardinals and got particularlycreative with their signals to each other. When Rolle started dancing pre-snap, that meant one thing to Rodgers-Cromartie: jump the route.
I'll never forget we were playing the Texans in 2009, and the game was tied with a little more than two minutes left. Man, I started dancing like crazy. I knew that the out to the sideline was coming. DRC looks at me, like, Yeah? O.K. then....
Matt Schaub drops back, they run the out ... pop! DRC takes it for a touchdown.
There's only certain players you can do that with. You need to develop a certain type of chemistry. I've always had that chemistry with my corners. I prefer for them to eat and I like to do the dirty work and hit people.
They loved me for it. Ask them. They'll tell you.
Rolle, 33, hung it up this year after being released by the Chicago Bears inMay, just one year into the three-year, $11.25 million deal that he signed in 2015. He played just seven games in his only season with Chicago, thanks to a season-ending knee injury that he blamed on poor field conditions at Halas Hall. He made a spirited pitch for a return to the Giants, where he earned both of his All-Pro nods, but nothingcame of that.
-- Brendan C. Hall
Antrel Rolle reflects on pair of famous Super Bowl catches