After returning an interception of Peyton Manning for a 69-yard touchdown, recovering a fumble and being named MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith was asked what he ran for a 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Smith politely pointed out he wasn’t invited to the combine.
One of the reasons Smith didn’t get an invitation was due to a serious medical condition that developed while playing at the University of Southern California. Smith was diagnosed with a rare disorder of the esophagus known as achalasia. The disease causes difficulty swallowing and regurgitation. For an athlete trying to remain in peak physical condition, that’s a major problem.
Smith was diagnosed with the disease in 2009 and detailed the struggles he initially faced to Michael Lev of the Orange County Register while playing for the Trojans.
Smith would frequently vomit while trying to eat and lost 30 pounds in the process. Once the disease was diagnosed, Smith underwent a surgical procedure to help ease the problems.
Smith ultimately fell to the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft before being selected by his former college head coach Pete Carroll.
Carroll fully understood Smith’s condition and the background to know the type of athlete Smith was. It’s still an issue Smith has to manage to this day. He has dietary restrictions and has to eat very slowly and deliberately to avoid vomiting. It usually takes Smith much longer to eat than his teammates.
Smith made it way on to Seattle’s roster as a valued special teams contributor and earned a starting job this season after Bruce Irvin was suspended for the first four games of the season. Smith then took over for K.J. Wright when he went down with a broken bone in his foot in December.
His play surged late in the season as he intercepted passes in four of Seattle’s last five games. His interceptions against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game and Broncos in the Super Bowl are now two of the most pivotal plays in Seattle franchise history.
And now he’s a Super Bowl MVP.