The Super Bowl often produces relatively unknown players who step into starring roles in football’s biggest game. Remember Washington’s Timmy Smith rushing for a Super Bowl-record 204 yards in the 1987 game? New England’s Malcolm Butler intercepting Seattle’s Russell Wilson at the goal line last season? How about David Tyree’s helmet catch for the New York Giants in 2007?
Here are six players – three from each team – who have the potential to fill that role in Sunday’s Super Bowl, either with a breakout performance or a big play:
Tight end Ed Dickson
His season: Playing behind starter Greg Olsen, Dickson caught 17 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Star potential: Dickson has won a Super Bowl before (with the Ravens in 2012). He also has shown a flair for the dramatic. Who can forget his play at Tampa Bay, when the ball popped out of Jonathan Stewart’s grasp and Dickson grabbed it out of midair, then returned it 57 yards for a touchdown?
Receiver Philly Brown
His season: Brown caught 31 passes for 447 yards and a touchdown in the regular season. He has six receptions for 135 yards and a TD in the Panthers’ two playoff games.
Star potential: Brown has been plagued by dropped passes during his two-year career, but when he holds on to it, watch out. His 86-yard touchdown catch in the NFC Championship Game against Arizona, during which he eluded, then outran the Cardinals secondary is a prime example.
Free safety Kurt Coleman
His season: Signed by the Panthers after being cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, Coleman had seven interceptions, tied for second-most in the NFL. He intercepted passes in four consecutive games at one point.
Star potential: Coleman’s picks have come at crucial times, including one in the end zone that killed a Cardinals threat late in the first half of the NFC Championship Game.
Linebacker Shaquil Barrett
His season: Second-year pro from Colorado State had 5.5 sacks while playing in the shadows of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Star potential: The Panthers need to take care of the ball when Barrett’s around; he forced four fumbles this season.
Tight end Owen Daniels
His season: Caught 46 yards for 517 yards and three touchdowns.
Star potential: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning likes to go receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but Daniels is his safety blanket. He had two TD catches in the Broncos’ AFC title game victory against the Patriots.
Kicker Brandon McManus
His season: Made 86 percent of his field-goal attempts (30 of 35, with a long of 57 yards) and didn’t miss a PAT.
Star potential: McManus has reportedly been kicking 68-yard field goals during practice this week at Stanford. That would be some kind of Super Bowl-winning kick.