Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
What made David Tyree's catch on the Giants' game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLII so remarkable wasn't simply the spectacular nature of the play, in which Tyree pinned the ball to the side of his helmet as he was going to the ground. It was that he had barely been used in the passing game the entire season.
Tyree had a mere four catches during the regular season and only one in the playoffs leading up to the Giants' 17-14 win over the Patriots. But Tyree caught a 5-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter against New England and then became a national sensation with arguably the most memorable play in Super Bowl history.
Could there be another Tyree in the offing for the Giants as they await a rematch against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI?
"Sure hope so," seldom-used wide receiver Devin Thomas said Thursday in a quiet corner of a locker room mobbed by media in advance of the Giants' trip to Indianapolis. "I was watching that catch at home in Miami, and it was like, 'Amazing. Incredible.' "
If there is anyone in position to be the Giants' unlikely hero in the mold of Tyree, it is fourth-year receiver Thomas. Just like Tyree, he's a special- teams ace who barely sees any action in the Giants' offense. Thomas had only three catches in the regular season, taking a backseat to receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.
Tyree himself recently sought out Thomas to remind him that he should be ready for a big moment . . . just in case.
"You have to learn that, 'Man, I still have a role in this thing,' " Tyree said of Thomas. "That's one of those unseen glories. I kind of rejoice in a guy like that."
The backup receiver will be ready if asked. And even if Thomas doesn't do his best imitation of Tyree in the Super Bowl, he already has been a huge factor in the Giants getting this far.
In Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, he recovered a muffed punt by 49ers return man Kyle Williams after the ball caromed off his knee in the fourth quarter. The Giants converted the turnover into a touchdown and a 17-14 lead.
Thomas then recovered Williams' fumble on a punt return in overtime, setting up the winning field goal.
"There are definitely parallels between the two of us, and any clutch moment I can have for this team is a bonus,'' Thomas said. "I'm just out there doing my job, and a lot of it is in an unseen way . But when I can make a big play, it speaks volumes."
That big play has yet to come in the passing game, but Tyree has told his friend that the big moment can happen at any time. No one knows that better than Tyree.
And as he can personally attest, any play can be his final one. That phenomenal catch in the Super Bowl was the last of his NFL career. Injuries prevented him from playing again.
Thomas had his own injury scare that made him wonder if he'd ever play again. After making a tackle on a squib kick to end the first half of the Giants' 23-10 loss to the Redskins on Dec. 18, he lay motionless on the MetLife Stadium turf. He couldn't move his arm, felt numbness down his entire right side and couldn't control the twitching in his legs. He was removed from the field on a backboard after a long delay.
"It was one of those, whew, this-is-bigger-than-football moments," Thomas said three days later after being cleared to return to practice. "I thought maybe I might have broke something in my neck and I thought I was going to be paralyzed or something. I was real scared at first . . . It was spooky."
"Now we're in the Super Bowl, a dream come true," he said. "It's about perseverance, staying with hard work, grinding. So many different things have happened this year. But it's all worth it. It's the greatest event ever."
Thomas will be content with a Super Bowl ring. And if there is a Tyree moment in there, too?
"That would be special," he said. "But the biggest thing is just to win the game. That's the only thing we're after."