NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playing in the Super Bowl is every NFL player’s dream. For the lucky ones, it is a dream that comes true, ending with their hands on the Vince Lombardi Trophy under a shower of confetti.
But for most, the Super Bowl is a fantasy that is never fulfilled, even for the some of the game’s greatest players.
Until this year, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was among that list of great players who were never in the right place at the right time.
Bailey, one of the best pass defenders in NFL history who spent five seasons with the Washington Redskins and 10 with the Broncos, has been named to 12 Pro Bowls and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Now, in his 15th season in the NFL, the 35-year-old will play in his first Super Bowl when the Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on February 2.
“It has been a long road, but I’m just taking it in my stride,” said Bailey. “I’m not trying to hype it up more than it should be. It’s still football. You’ve got to go out there and perform and you’ve got to prepare just like we always do.”
Not only has Bailey have never played in a Super Bowl before, he has never even been to one, refusing to attend the greatest extravaganza in American professional sports until he was an active participant.
“I didn’t see any reason to go,” he explained. “I’m not going to cheer for anybody and if I have no special interests in the game, other than being a fan watching it at home, why go?”
Bailey is not the first player to finally get his chance to play in a Super Bowl after a long and distinguished career. Twelve months ago, Baltimore safety Ed Reed played in his first Super Bowl after 11 seasons with the Ravens and won.
For Bailey, a Super Bowl victory could be the perfect way to end his career but he said he wasn’t making any decisions about his future until after the game.
“I’m not really thinking about retiring if I win,” he said. “All I’m thinking about is winning and doing what I’ve got to do to win the game.
“That’s my preparation this week. After the game, we’ll talk about that.”
The significance of the Super Bowl for Bailey is not lost on his teammates, who would love nothing better than to help him achieve his lifelong goal.
“Champ is a special player,” Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “We’ve been thinking about that the whole season. It’s kind of like, this is one guy that everybody wants to win for.”
Editing by Frank Pingue