Long before he was a member of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” Byron Maxwell was a hard-hitting defensive back for the Clemson Tigers, bringing the boom to receivers across the ACC and beyond.
Although his expertise came on special teams and he mostly came off the bench until his senior season of 2010 (he had eight collegiate starts at cornerback), he made an impact when he was on the field.
Thanks to the impact he made with the Seahawks in 2013, he’ll soon be fitted for a ring reserved for Super Bowl champions.
Maxwell had four unassisted tackles and forced a momentum-killing fumble in Seattle’s 43-8 thrashing of Denver on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“He has the length and the speed to be physical with these big wide receivers in the NFL and we saw that (Sunday),” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I am so proud of him. I think he will be an outstanding pro for many years to come.”
Along with fellow corner Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, the “Legion of Boom” secondary was a cornerstone of the league’s best defense, one that throttled the NFL’s most potent offense on Sunday.
“The game plan was to focus on us,” Maxwell said during Sunday’s postgame news conference. “We focused on us. It really was about us at the end of the day.”
From a safety 12 seconds into the game to the last tick of the fourth quarter clock, the Seahawks were in charge.
Maxwell said the performance was a reflection of what coach Pete Carroll preaches — go out, size up the job and get the job done.
“I think he does a great job of just making every day seem like it’s a championship game,” Maxwell said. “This really hasn’t even hit me because … I don’t want to say it feels like a regular game, but it feels like a regular game in a sense. He does a great job of that.”
Maxwell’s biggest contribution came when Demaryius Thomas caught a pass at the Seattle 21 in the third quarter with the Broncos trailing 29-0. Maxwell reached in and stripped the ball, forcing a fumble that was recovered by MVP Malcolm Smith — a turnover that effectively ended hope for Denver.
“(I was) trying to do too much,” Thomas said. “I was trying to make a play, and (Maxwell) did a great job of hitting the ball and getting it out. I was trying to make a move, he punched it out.”
The 6-1, 207-pounder finished his third season in the NFL with 28 tackles in 19 games and five starts. When he took the field on the game’s opening possession on Sunday it marked the first time a former Clemson player had started a Super Bowl in 14 years.
He had four picks for the year and accounted for 33 solo tackles (43 in all), four interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries since being taken with the eighth pick of the 2011 NFL draft’s sixth round.
For now, Maxwell and the rest of the Seahawks are celebrating the first world title in franchise history — and one of the most lopsided Super Bowls ever played.
“We certainly thought we were capable of this,” Maxwell said. “It’s just one of those things. It just happened. Everything clicked. Everything happened at the right time.
“We did it.”