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The gridiron’s wildest tales: 5 unbelievable Super Bowl stories

Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl, America’s grandest and most-watched sporting event, has witnessed numerous thrilling moments and dramatic Hollywood-like endings.

Super Bowl LVIII is next week in Las Vegas. The event is now a deep part of American culture and often where unconventional and off-field stories also leave a lasting impression.

Here are five astonishing tales about NFL players and how their Super Bowl journey became something they never intended.

Related: 5 best quarterback performances in Super Bowl history

1. The enigmatic disappearance of Barrett Robbins

Barrett Robbins Super Bowl
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In 2003, Super Bowl XXXVII was meant to be the crowning achievement for Barrett Robbins. Instead of joining his Oakland Raiders on the field in San Diego to battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the big game, the Pro Bowl center mysteriously vanished on the eve of the game.

Robbins was found disoriented in Tijuana, Mexico, adding to the intrigue surrounding his disappearance. It later came to light that Robbins had been battling mental health issues and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was hospitalized on game day.

Still, late owner Al Davis wanted Robbins to play and even made him run sprints in the stadium parking lot before deciding to suspend him and send him back to Oakland. This incident cast a shadow over the Super Bowl, which the Raiders lost to former coach Jon Gruden. But it did bring to the surface the issues of mental health.

2. Eugene Robinson’s unexpected downfall

Eugene Robinson Super Bowl
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On the night before Super Bowl XXXIII, Eugene Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons received recognition for his “character” by being awarded the Bart Starr Award. But the luster of that award was lost a few hours later when Robinson was apprehended in Miami for soliciting a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Despite his arrest, Robinson took to the field on game day. Sure, he played. But his performance was noticeably subpar. His missed tackle of Denver Broncos receiver Rod Smith, resulting in an 80-yard touchdown, was key to the Broncos’ victory.

Related: 5 greatest Super Bowl moments of all-time

3. Stanley Wilson’s Super Bowl cocaine relapse

Super Bowl Stanley Wilson
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On the eve of Super Bowl XXIII in 1989, tragedy struck for Cincinnati Bengals fullback Stanley Wilson. Known for battling drug addiction, Wilson was discovered incapacitated and high on cocaine in his hotel bathroom. Wilson’s relapse not only greatly impacted his health but it also dealt a significant blow to the Bengals’ game strategy.

Already grappling with turmoil over their teammate’s relapse, they went on to narrowly lose to the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, Wilson was permanently banned from the NFL. In 1999, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced to 22 years in prison in California.

4. The heroics of Max McGee’s hangover

Max McGee Super Bowl I
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In the Super Bowl I, Max McGee from the Green Bay Packers exploded. Despite catching just four passes in the regular season and assuming he wouldn’t even play in the game, McGee spent the previous night enjoying the vibrant Los Angeles nightlife.

On game day, McGee, battling a hangover and barely getting any sleep, was unexpectedly called into action after Boyd Dowler, the Packers starter got injured during Green Bay’s initial drive. Remarkably, without having his helmet with him on the field, McGee went on to catch seven passes for 138 yards and scored two touchdowns.

His performance, and his wild night out on the Sunset Strip, has since become legend and part of the Super Bowl’s enduring hold on American sports fans.

Related: Taking a look at all of the top Super Bowl records

5. Scott Norwood’s “wide right” and Buffalo’s uniting support

Super Bowl Scott Norwood
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While not a story filled with antics or illicit player activity, what unfolded during Super Bowl XXV in 1991 involving Scott Norwood is a testament to human vulnerability and community strength. Norwood’s heartbreaking miss of a 47-yard field goal in the final moments of the game is famously referred to as “Wide Right” and cost the Buffalo Bills their chance at winning the Super Bowl.

Facing scorn and isolation, and even a death threat, Norwood returned to Buffalo to a show of support from thousands of fans who rallied behind him. In a moving display of solidarity, they chanted “We want Scott!” This turned a moment of disappointment into a powerful testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity and also how much the people of Buffalo love their Bills.

Ironically, just this season the Bills again were eliminated from the playoffs when Tyler Bass missed a field goal too. Buffalo’s response: $260,000 was raised for the Ten Lives Club, a New York-based cat adoption group Bass endorsed in the past.

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