For most of the 2013 regular season and playoffs, Percy Harvin watched and waited.
On Sunday, he finally played a full game.
Healthy after August hip surgery – and finally cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the divisional playoffs – Harvin showed in Super Bowl XLVIII what all the fuss was about.
He took the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards for a touchdown that all but assured the Seahawks’ first NFL title in what became a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos.
He was also the game’s leading rusher – 45 yards – on just two carries, showing a burst on jet sweeps. For good measure, had a reception for 5 yards.
Forget monkey off the back. This was bigger, Harvin said.
“It’s just a big horse off my back,” he said. “I finally was able to give my team something for four quarters. That meant a lot to me.”
It meant a lot to the Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who invested first- and a seventh-round picks in 2013, a third-round pick in 2014 plus a six-year, $67 million contract that has $25 million guaranteed.
“Percy is a special talent,” Schneider said. “Obviously, his explosiveness is off the charts.”
The big play was the kickoff return to start the third quarter. With Seattle already up, 22-0, Harvin set up for the return that he called “counter-right, bounce-right.” He said it was a return the Seahawks had not shown on film all year.
“We knew there was a great chance that we would catch them off-guard,” Harvin said. “Those guys pretty much clear out the whole right side of the field. I think there were only two defenders over there. I just took the gap and hit it as hard as I could.”
The Broncos tried a pop-up kickoff, with kicker Matt Prater, hitting it high but not very deep. Harvin grabbed it at the 13, weaved through traffic and then burst the Seahawks sideline for the score.
“Even when I wasn’t practicing, those guys were saying, ‘You’re going to score on this,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not even on the field practicing yet,’ ” Harvin said. “Coach (Pete Carroll) save that one return for me hoping we could get a look and it came through.”
The same could be said of Harvin. The only kickoff return he had this season was a 58-yarder vs. the Minnesota Vikings, his former team. And his only reception of the regular season, a 17-yarder, came in that game, too.
The Vikings’ game, however, also caused a flare up in Harvin’s surgically repaired hip. It sidelined him until the postseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, but Harvin did not make it to halftime because of a concussion.
Harvin said it was the week of the Saints game that he began to feel like his old self. Getting knocked out, he said, was especially frustrating.
He said the situation was made tolerable by the encouragement his teammates gave him. Quarterback Russell Wilson said he had a feeling Harvin was going to have a big game in the Super Bowl, and fellow receiver Jermaine Kearse said he never doubted Harvin’s ability to come back and be a contributor.
“A lot of people got down on him because he didn’t play throughout the season,” Kearse said. “But I knew the type of person Percy was. He was going to fight back. He was going to get healthy and when he was finally healthy, he came out and he showed it. He made the plays we needed him to make, especially with that kickoff return.”