Nolan Cromwell was more than a standout safety for the Los Angeles Rams. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and 1980 Defensive Player of the Year who was named to the 1980s’ all-decade team.
Plus, when he retired following the 1987 season, he led the Rams in career interception return yardage.
In short, Nolan Cromwell was a star.
Yet, with all those accolades, Cromwell is still bothered by something that didn’t happen — and that’s an interception in Super Bowl XIV vs. Pittsburgh, a game he called “probably the biggest of my career as far as a player.”
With the underdog Rams ahead 19-17 in the third quarter, Cromwell stepped in front of Steelers’ receiver Lynn Swann for a critical interception of a short pass and an open field — and almost certain TD — in front of him.
Except he didn’t make it. Didn’t catch the ball. Didn’t score. Nothing.
Though the ball hit him in the chest, Cromwell failed to make the play that could have … no, should have … upped the scored to 26-17. And, as he told the Talk of Fame Network on its latest broadcast, that rare mistake continues to haunt him today.
“Being in control of the game, and then letting it kind of draft away from us .. that was kind of hard to take,” he said. “You remember things about the game.”
And Cromwell remembers that play
“I tell you what,” he said, “that has haunted me forever about the Super Bowl. (You wonder) what if? If I had caught that would it have changed the complexion of the game?”
As it turned out, an interception did change the game — though it wasn’t by Cromwell. It was by Pittsburgh linebacker Jack Lambert, who picked off Vince Ferragamo with the Rams driving in the last six minutes — a turnover that led to a game-clinching TD and a 31-19 Steelers’ victory, Pittsburgh’s fourth Lombardi Trophy in six years.
But the score wasn’t an accurate reflection of the contest. The teams were closely matched, and the Steelers were fortunate to survive.
“It was quite a game,” said Cromwell. “A great moment in my life and in my career.”