EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – He was a gamble. Percy Harvin has always been a gamble.
The Seattle Seahawks gave up a first-round draft pick and $67 million over six years for the rights to a receiver who played in one regular-season game and had one regular-season catch.
It turned out to be a bargain.
Harvin changed the entire dynamic of the Seahawks' 43-8 Super Bowl rout on Sunday, blowing apart the Denver Broncos' defense with two jet sweeps from scrimmage and providing the signature highlight with a kick return for a touchdown that crushed any hopes of a second-half Broncos comeback. It was vintage Harvin: When he is healthy, he is unstoppable.
"A play waiting to happen," said Seahawks backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who played with Harvin in Minnesota.
He's been a play waiting to happen since he was a boy growing up in Chesapeake, Va. Once, in high school, he won five gold medals at one track meet.
"We scored 52 points. Percy was part of 50 of them," his track coach, Tom Anderson, once told Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel. "The other kids got two points."
Harvin only had six of the Seahawks' 43 points in the team's blowout win over Denver, but those six were a perfect example of why he's one of the most dangerous players in football. Harvin took the opening kickoff of the second half and ran a counter-right – a play he's been waiting to unveil for weeks. Part of the reason for the wait was simple: Harvin wasn't healthy enough to run it.
"We hadn't put it on film all year," Harvin said, "so we knew there was a great chance that we could catch them off-guard."
Harvin catches everyone off-guard, in part because there are so many injury-filled gaps between his highlight plays. As a freshman at Florida in his first meeting against rival Florida State, he scored a touchdown, then was taken off the field on a stretcher after a neck sprain. He came back the next week and won MVP of the SEC title game, and then lined up at quarterback, running back and receiver in the Gators' national title game win over Ohio State.
Two years later, Harvin led Florida to another national title, and did so with a hairline leg fracture and a high ankle sprain. That was after offseason heel surgery.
A lot of the credit for the Gators' dominance in those days went to Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow. But Florida has not been the same since Harvin left campus. There are few players in football who stretch the field like he does, and the Broncos learned that as quickly on Sunday as the Buckeyes did in '07 and the Sooners did in '09. After leaving school early, he won AP's offensive rookie of the year honors with the Vikings and had a role in Brett Favre's final playoff run. He seems to make every single team he's joined dangerous enough to win a title. Three times in his last eight seasons, he's been on the last team standing.
To watch Harvin is to wonder how dominant he could be with a full season in an offense like Seattle's. He's had a history of migraines and concussions, and nearly missed the Super Bowl because of big hits that knocked him out of his team's first playoff win against the Saints. (That's not to mention his hip ailment.) Asked over and over again last week if he worried about missing his chance to play in the world's biggest game, he denied having any concerns once he went through the concussion protocol. He sounded quite sure, but there is nothing sure about Harvin except talent and turbulence. As if all the pain wasn't enough to cast doubt on his reliability, he had conduct issues in high school and again in college.
In the locker room after Sunday's Super Bowl win, Harvin smiled easily, as if he knew this would happen all along. There was a calmness about him that belied his mercurial past. For one sweet Super Bowl Sunday, all the doubts about him vanished.
And all the risk linked to him landed squarely on the would-be tacklers watching him from behind.
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