NEWARK, N.J. — Legion of Boom members Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are easily identifiable. Byron Maxwell, not so much.
But that is changing the more Maxwell plays cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks.
Maxwell will start in the Super Bowl on Sunday, a scenario the third-year player out of Clemson could not fathom when the season began. He’s started the last seven games, including both playoff victories, and has made four interceptions.
“I was so far down on the depth chart I couldn’t expect for this to happen,” said Maxwell, a sixth-round find in 2011. “But you never know.”
The Seahawks players seemed to have a hunch that Maxwell was up to the task of filling in for Brandon Browner, who injured a groin and was later suspended. Thomas said he saw it on the practice field, and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said Maxwell’s talent was obvious, even if it only showed itself on special teams.
“I’ve seen Maxwell mature so much since when he first came here,” Mebane said. “He’s like at another level in how he prepares on and off the field.”
Maxwell’s first start came against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 2. It was a successful debut as he helped the Seahawks’ defense limit Saints quarterback Drew Brees to 144 yards passing in a 34-7 victory.
The next week, against San Francisco, he got his first career interception. He topped that in his third start, intercepting New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning twice.
“I don’t think people understand how good Maxwell is,” Thomas said. “He only started (seven) games and ended up with four interceptions.
“That story kind of sounds familiar when you talk about ‘Sherm’ early on in his career when he wasn’t starting. A lot of guys got hurt, and when (Sherman) got his opportunity, he capitalized. That’s just what Byron Maxwell was doing.”
Even Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has noticed Maxwell.
“They have three excellent cover corners – all three of them – Maxwell, Sherman and (Walter) Thurmond,” Manning said.
If you think Maxwell, at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, is just a cover corner type, think again.
"I'm physical,” Maxwell said. “I like to mix it up. I like to tackle. I like actually being a football player."
Thomas pointed out the vicious take down Maxwell made on Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson back in November as proof that Maxwell has what it takes to be a full member of the Legion of Boom.
“He hit him in the hole and then picked up Adrian Peterson like he weighed a buck-fifty,” Thomas said. “You can really see the difference in his confidence from now to early in the season. He doesn’t even know how good he can be.”