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Why Bill Kollar was named Senior Bowl MVP over Lynn Swann and John Stallworth

MOBILE, Ala. — On the corner of Dauphin and St. Emmanuel streets in downtown Mobile, the Senior Bowl Museum hosts the history of a game that annually invades this small city in south Alabama.

The rows of displays inside the small storefront showcase players and memorabilia from nearly seven decades of contests. The game, which garners more and more attention each year, has always been home to star collegiate players, many of whom go on to fantastic NFL careers.

Walter Payton. Bo Jackson. Ozzie Newsome. "Mean" Joe Greene. Ray Nitschke.

Each got their start after competing in the week of Senior Bowl practices and the ensuing game.

That week in 1974 was no different.

Two future Hall of Famers — Lynn Swann and John Stallworth — both played in the game.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer John Cappelletti also competed.

Mike Webster, Danny White and Ed "Too Tall" Jones were all on hand for the collegiate all-star game.

Yet none won MVP honors.

Those, rather, went to a defensive end out of Montana State named Bill Kollar.

And while details of that day remain hazy — Kollar isn't mentioned in the official summary of the game and he hasn't been able to track down a full copy of the game — the Broncos defensive line coach says he finished with "quite a few sacks" and "had some TFLs."

"I remember [Oklahoma All-American] Lucious Selmon was a guy that was also playing my position, and he had an injury," said Kollar this week as he coached the next crop of Senior Bowl defensive ends. "He was coming off of a hamstring, so he really wasn't 100 percent. Because usually, when you end up playing, you only get to play so many plays in the game. So I got to play a few extra plays because he was injured. I remember I made a big play and then I made another, and Lucious, as it's going, he says, 'You keep going like that, you'll get MVP.' I'm like, 'Yeah, sure, right.' Because I don't think they had ever had a defensive MVP at that time.

"I just made a couple more later in the second half and he said, 'You're going to get it. You're going to get it.' It just turned out to be just a great opportunity playing with all those great players. It was really something else."

When Kollar arrived in Mobile that week, he was just a three-time All-Big Sky Conference selection. He exited as the MVP — and would be drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals just a couple of weeks later.

In the aftermath of the performance, though, Kollar wasn't immediately aware he'd been selected as the game's most valuable player.

"I didn't even realize it," Kollar said. "I'm standing on the sideline and there's about a minute left in the game, and I'm standing there chewing on my mouth guard. I never even heard it when they said it on the sideline. I guess they said it on TV, and they got a close up of me chewing my mouth guard as they end up naming me MVP."

Much like today's players from small schools, Kollar largely viewed both Senior Bowl week and the East-West Shrine Game as opportunities to show he could play against athletes from bigger schools.

That didn't mean he didn't appreciate the added benefits, especially the new car that went to the Senior Bowl MVP.

"It was the first car I ever had," Kollar said in 2014, "so it really ended up being a heck of a deal."

But the accolades didn't stop in 1974.

Forty years later — alongside new Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware — Kollar was inducted into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame.

"Bill was the MVP of the 1974 game and has now become the MVP of defensive line coaches in the NFL over the past 25 years," Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage said in 2014 release.

This week in Mobile, though, he's just Coach Bill Kollar.

He chose not to share his legacy with his defensive linemen during North Team position meetings; it seems he'd rather just coach.

Instead, only a brief mention from Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods gave players like N.C. State's B.J. Hill the slightest inclination of the part Kollar plays in the Senior Bowl's past.

"That's what I heard," said Hill, when asked if he knew of his coach's performance.

Kollar's performance may be worth a little more research than an offhand comment, though.

Because while his coaching is undeniably unique and impressive, his play in that game may have been even better.

There's a museum not too far away — and it's definitely worth the trip.

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