Rhodes: Missing MVP 'no big deal'

MIAMI -- For a few moments late Sunday night, Indianapolis Colts tailback Dominic Rhodes stood on the field at Dolphin Stadium and mentally rehearsed history's most famous post-Super Bowl tagline.

You know, the one about heading to a famous amusement megapark in Orlando, Fla., to be feted there by the world's most famous mouse.

Cameras surrounded the veteran tailback, and NFL security officials nudged closer to him than Chicago Bears defenders had gotten during most of Super Bowl XLI. Then, teased by all the attention, it was suddenly over for Rhodes as quarterback Peyton Manning was announced as the Most Valuable Player in the Colts' 29-17 victory.

Unfortunately, for Rhodes, fame is fleeting. Luckily, for the Colts and the league, which likely was a bit red-faced for suggesting that Rhodes might have won the game's singular honor, disappointment doesn't hang around very long for the six-year veteran runner.

"No big deal," said Rhodes, who carried 21 times for 113 yards but never made it atop the podium to snuggle up to the Vince Lombardi Trophy in front of a national audience. "I'm a Super Bowl champion. Would the [MVP] award have been nice? Sure, and I guess the voting must have been close. But I've got 'champion' after my name now."

Signed as an undrafted college free agent in 2001, Rhodes rushed for 1,104 yards as a rookie when then-starter Edgerrin James suffered a season-ending knee injury. In the ensuing five seasons, which included a 2002 campaign in which Rhodes missed the entire season with a knee injury of his own, he has totaled just 1,170 yards.

But Rhodes, 28, started every regular-season game in 2006 and served as a mentor for rookie tailback Joseph Addai, the Colts' first-round draft choice. And Sunday night, when Addai totaled 143 all-purpose yards from scrimmage, it was Rhodes who hammered the touted, tough-guy Chicago defense into submission, running for 87 yards and 14 carries in the second half.

Going to Disney World? Heck, the Colts are going home to Indianapolis with a Super Bowl in hand, in large part because of Rhodes' quick feet.

"We've used Dom to put away games for us," Manning said, "so it really doesn't come as a surprise, what he did tonight. But, man, he sure gives us a lift."

Rhodes had 10 rushes of 5 or more yards, five runs for 10-plus yards, and a 36-yard dash off the weak side in the third quarter to set up one of Adam Vinatieri's three field goals. If Addai softened the Chicago defense in the first half, Rhodes finished the ballyhooed but beleaguered unit in the second.

"Maybe the only disappointment," Rhodes said, "was not getting the ball into the end zone as much as we usually do. But we kept moving the ball. And you could see, as the game wore on, that their defense was wearing out. They were on the field a heck of a lot. With this game, maybe people will recognize a little more just how good our running game can be."

As for personal recognition, well, Rhodes was cited by most of his teammates in a happy Colts locker room after the victory. Although he wouldn't have minded an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando, he figures he can make the trip on the playoff bonus money he earned.

"I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't have been nice," Rhodes said. "But with the way that my teammates are treating me, trust me, I don't need it to feel (validated)."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer at ESPN.com.