Jackson predicted he'd be MVP, then made it happen

In the buildup to Super Bowl XXXVII between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, it's hard to believe that many people looked at Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson as a serious candidate for MVP. But at least one person made the prediction.

"My friends were watching ESPN and they were picking their MVPs," Jackson said. "I hadn't even played the game yet, and I figured that I could be the difference. I told somebody that I was going to be the Most Valuable Player."

Sure enough, Jackson won the award after intercepting two Rich Gannon passes in the first half -- a Super Bowl record -- as the Buccaneers rolled to a 48-21 victory over the Raiders.

Jackson became just the third defensive back in Super Bowl history to win the MVP award, joining cornerback Larry Brown of the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX and safety Jake Scott of the Dolphins (in Super Bowl VII).

"We knew that Gannon loves to throw the football, so we knew there was a chance to make some big plays," Jackson said.

Nickel back Dwight Smith had two interception returns for touchdowns and the defensive line continually harassed Gannon, who finished the game with a 48.9 passer rating. Linebacker Derrick Brooks also had an interception return for a touchdown, so the decision was a tough one for the MVP voters.

"As far as I am concerned, the whole defense could have won the award," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said.

The interception returns by Smith and Brooks were merely icing on the cake for a game that quickly turned into a blowout, despite a desperate comeback attempt by the Raiders. It was Jackson's interceptions that really turned the game in the Buccaneers' favor.

"That was big," Smith said. "Any time you can make Rich Gannon make a mistake, it's big. Dexter's first two interceptions really helped the momentum. My interception just sealed the deal. That's usually what our defense does. We make the plays that seal the game."

For Jackson, being named Most Valuable Player was validation for the secondary.

"We had the No. 1 defense and nobody gave us any credit," Jackson said. "We felt like we were one of the strong points of the team. We just didn't get any attention.

"I look at it like an expensive car. You appreciate the shiny outside exterior of the car, but you don't really appreciate the underneath stuff, like the spark plugs. I feel like I'm one of the spark plugs on this team."

When Jackson first came to the Buccaneers, he was affectionately nicknamed "Dirt Road" in honor of his rural hometown of Quincy, Fla. As Super Bowl MVP, he was given a Cadillac of his choice -- spark plugs and all.

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