USA TODAY Sports’ Tom Pelissero, Lindsay H. Jones and Lorenzo Reyes make their predictions for Super Bowl 50.
It was bizarre, unthinkable and sadly, historically inept. The Denver Broncosâ opening snap two years ago, in their last appearance in a Super Bowl, flew out of center Manny Ramirezâs hands, over Peyton Manningâs right shoulder, into the end zone and resulted in a safety.
And thus the tone for Super Bowl XLVIII was set, one play to undo a seasonâs worth of toil and hand the Seattle Seahawks an injection of momentum they would ride all the way to a championship.
With a chance for redemption, not to mention a fairytale swansong for Manning, in the air ahead of Sundayâs showdown with the Carolina Panthers, it is no surprise that Denverâs thought have turned, albeit briefly, to the opening offensive snap once more.
âIn any game it is important to make a good start,â wide receiver Demaryius Thomas told USA TODAY Sports. âMaybe even more so in a Super Bowl.â
Poor Ramirez, now with the Detroit Lions, was the unfortunate fall guy at MetLife Stadium 24 months ago. The center was widely blamed for the mix-up, even though Manning insisted no individual was at fault and that the deafening arena noise had contributed to the issue.
âI was shocked because you never expect anything like that to happen,” Ramirez said after the game. âOf course I take full blame for that. They capitalized on it. We weren’t able to get going for the whole rest of the game.â
It is tempting to feel pity for the man who has to reprise his role this time, such is the level of scrutiny likely to be on the opening snap due to what happened against the Seahawks.
Except that Matt Paradis, the Broncosâ current center, isnât the kind of man to elicit sympathy. Itâs not that he isnât a nice guy, heâs a jolly giant with an amiable and witty nature. Itâs just that he clearly loves life and loves his career, so thereâs not much reason to feel sorry for him.
âOh man, are you trying to jinx me?â roared Paradis, when asked about the Super Bowlâs opening snap. âIâm sure Iâll have a lot of things going through my head when we get out there but hopefully that wonât be one of them.
âIt was just one of those unexpected things that happens sometimes. Weâre going to be focused on getting everything right and executing our game.â
Paradis has had a remarkable ride during his career and the fact he has a job in the NFL at all, let alone for a team bidding for a championship, is extraordinary considering his journey.
The 26-year-old grew up on a cattle ranch in Council, Idaho., where he learned to drive a tractor at the age of 5 and managed his share of manual tasks around the farm.
His high school played only eight-man football, and while Paradis was outstanding at that version of the game, he received no college scholarship offers after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament before his final game for Council.
He looked destined for life on the ranch, before an academic scholarship offer from Boise State gave him the chance to walk on. Paradis grabbed his chance, was named all-Mountain West, and earned a sixth round selection from the Broncos in the 2014 draft.
âIt has been a long road and along the way you learn that you might as well enjoy it,â Paradis said. âYouâve got to enjoy the work and the effort and whatever result comes out of that. Iâve learned to roll with the punches, Iâm not fazed by too much.â
Not even by the ghost of the Broncosâ most unfortunate moment in recent Super Bowl history.