Ross D. Franklin / AP Enlarge
TAMPA - Santonio Holmes sat on the grass alongside the end zone - legs outstretched, head bowed, arms wrapped tightly around the ball.
He'd come too far to let go.
The kid who once sold drugs on a street corner had grown up to become MVP of a most remarkable Super Bowl.
Holmes, who overcame his gritty childhood in rural south Florida, made a brilliant touchdown catch with 35 seconds left to give the Pittsburgh Steelers their record sixth Super Bowl title, a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last night.
"I dared the team," Holmes said. "Just give me the ball, give me the chance to make plays and I will do it for you."
He was true to his word on the six-yard winner.
After a pass to the left corner went through Holmes' hands, Ben Roethlisberger lofted the ball toward the right corner, over the hands of not one, not two, but three Arizona defenders. Holmes leaped to get it - and somehow managed to drag both feet in bounds, his toes barely scraping the grass before he tumbled out of bounds.
The official threw up both arms - touchdown! - and Holmes sat out of bounds for several seconds, looking down at a ball he didn't want to give up. His teammates piled on top of him, celebrating a game that will go down as one of the greatest in Super Bowl history.
The referee took a look at the replay to make sure
Holmes had control of the ball and got both feet down.
Holmes never had any doubt.
"I knew it was a touchdown 100 percent," he said. "My feet never left the ground. All I did was stand on my toes and extend my hands."
Holmes' catch came at exactly the same point - 35 seconds remaining - as Plaxico Burress' 13-yard touchdown catch in last year's Super Bowl, giving the New York
Giants their upset win over New England.
"The first read was the running back in the flat, but he wasn't open," Roethlisberger said. "Then I was going to try to bang it to Hines [Ward, MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl], but someone was closing in on it and I was a little nervous about it. It wouldn't have been a touchdown. I looked back, scrambled a little bit and saw 'Ton' in the corner. I tried to throw it high so he was going to catch it, or no one was.
"Luckily, he made a heck of a play."
Holmes had nine catches for 131 yards - four of them on the winning 78-yard drive.