Holmes gets his hardware

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

TAMPA, Fla. -- The only thing brighter than the Super Bowl MVP trophy Monday was the smile on Santonio Holmes' face.

In the presence of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Holmes got his hands on the hardware for good during a presentation in downtown Tampa. It came less than 12 hours after the performance of Holmes' career in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Everyone knows the statistics: nine catches, 131 yards and a memorable touchdown catch with 35 seconds left in the game.

But not everyone understands the struggle for Holmes to get to the top of the football world. He's survived a troubled upbringing and an up-and-down season.

Three years out of Ohio State, Holmes caught 55 passes for 821 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season. But he struggled to make routine plays and fell just short of his stated goal of recording a 1,000-yard season.

And in the Super Bowl week buildup, Holmes endured added scrutiny when he admitted he sold drugs as a teenager growing up in Florida.

Sunday on the game's biggest stage, he delivered a career-defining performance.

All of those elements were in play as Holmes reflected on his showing. He wanted to share his triumph with as many people as possible and as soon as possible.

"I'm really excited about getting to Pittsburgh for the parade," Holmes said. "We can definitely enjoy it all together."

The events of the game and performance by Holmes left Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin humbled. Tomlin, 36, became the youngest coach in NFL history ever to coach and win a Super Bowl but kept the focus on the game's MVP.

"To see guys like Santonio deliver for football teams and see him placed with legendary people and people we look up to, it was just a very blessed evening," Tomlin said. "I'm excited about being a part of it. It's surreal in a way."

Holmes is definitely living the dream. He now will be mentioned in Super Bowl history with former MVPs such as Joe Montana, John Elway, Jerry Rice and many other greats who took their games to another level on the biggest stage.

Teammate and mentor Hines Ward went through the same process three years ago after winning a Super Bowl and MVP award, and offered advice to Holmes of how to handle the increase in fame and celebrity.

"He told me to just stay humble," Holmes said. "Things are going to come for me. Just be ready to represent my family, this team and this whole organization."

Holmes was part of the final drive that lasted eight plays and traveled 78 yards. He accounted for 73 of those yards on four receptions.

With Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the helm and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians calling plays, it was a near-perfect drive done with amazing precision.

"It was the Steelers' night," Goodell said. "It was a performance for the ages. It was something I think we will all remember, a back-and-forth game with some great team performances and great individual performances."

Holmes didn't spend Sunday night partying. He was with his family, watching the animated movie "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" with his children.

As he left the podium Monday, he asked those nearby if it was OK to take the trophy with him. Somewhat surprised, they nodded and said it was his to keep.

Even after the fact, Holmes was still in disbelief with the way everything transpired for him this week.