Winning the Super Bowl brings a lot of spoils to NFL players, which explains why Super Bowl celebrations are almost as big as the game itself. For one thing, winning is a legacy item. The average NFL player’s career is just a shade over three years, and most players never hold the Lombardi Trophy in such a short time. For another, there’s a nice financial payout—$130,000 for members of the winning team this past season, and $65,000 for the losing team.
And for the more sentimental of the league’s nearly 2,000 athletes: If you win the Super Bowl, you get a parade. Super Bowl celebrations have gotten bigger and bigger in the past two decades, and their most iconic moments have been so widely shared as to become the stuff of NFL legend.
Here’s a collection of some of the best moments between NFL players, their teammates, their coaches, and their fans in the days immediately following life-changing Super Bowl wins.
2020: Tom Brady’s Boat-to-Boat Trophy Throw
Still trying to get over Tom Brady launching the Lombardi Trophy! 😅
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) February 11, 2021
Perhaps when you’ve won seven Lombardis, you’re not as worried about one of them falling into a river. Of course, Brady’s pass to tight end Cameron Brate wound up being right on target. Later, Brady appeared to be the happiest quarterback in the history of the league, and the drinks might have had something to do with it:
Tom Brady on land after the Bucs’ boat parade 🚶♂️
— ESPN (@espn) February 10, 2021
2018: Doug Pederson’s Immaculate Beer Reception
— Howard Finkelstein (@howfink) February 8, 2018
It was a long wait for the Philadelphia Eagles to win their first Super Bowl. When they did, head coach Doug Pederson rode along the parade route on top of a big commercial bus in the ensuing parade. Someone in the crowd made a perfect throw of what looked to be a can of Bud Light, and Pederson caught it one-handed from atop the moving vehicle. Whether he then drank it is unclear, but it’s hard to imagine he’d make a grab like that and then toss it aside. The Eagles’ parade also featured one of the best speeches in Super Bowl parade history, delivered by center Jason Kelce.
2016: Product Placement Peyton
Peyton Manning ended one of the great careers in league history by beating the Panthers in Super Bowl 50 (thanks mostly to the Broncos overpowering defense). The most fitting capper to his career was his immediate postgame interview, in which reporter Tracy Wolfson asked him whether he was going to retire. Manning replied, “I’m gonna drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy.” Budweiser didn’t even pay him to say it.
2013: Ray Lewis’s Last Dance
Lewis spent 17 seasons as the anchor of the Ravens defense. In that time, he established himself as one of the best linebackers ever and perhaps the most beloved athlete in Baltimore history. By the 2012 season, Lewis’s career was winding down, but he remained an important factor for a team that put together a Cinderella playoff run and then won it all.
At the ensuing celebration back in Baltimore, Lewis came out of the team’s tunnel one more time and did the dance that had become his trademark over the prior two decades.
2009: Troy Polamalu Goes Crowd-surfing
The future Hall of Famer was known for playing an aggressive style of football from his safety position. Polamalu wasn’t afraid to launch himself into an opponent or put his body on the line to make a critical play. By the time he won his second Super Bowl, everyone already knew that.
What everyone didn’t know was that Polamalu carried the same mindset into crowd-surfing. At the Steelers’ parade, he threw himself into a throng of elated yinzers. The crowd made sure to keep him up before safely returning him to the parade route.
2002: The Patriots Get Bill Belichick to Show Human Emotion
Pro football’s greatest coach of this era is also its most famously curmudgeonly. But after Belichick’s Patriots won the first of their six Super Bowls, a group of his veteran players started dancing on the stage at the end of their parade route. They were able to convince Belichick not only to smile but to groove with them for a few seconds, too.
People say winning the Super Bowl changes you. This is what they mean.
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