New England Patriots' Martellus Bennett wears a NASA hat during...

New England Patriots' Martellus Bennett wears a NASA hat during opening night for Super Bowl LI at Minute Maid Park Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in Houston Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

HOUSTON — Martellus Bennett made it to the Super Bowl as a member of the Patriots, but he has the Giants to thank for it.

Even Bennett admits his career was a flop for the first four years, when the tight end struggled to learn the NFL game and had maturity issues as a member of the Cowboys. He became a free agent and signed a one-year deal with the Giants. Since then, his performance and his personality have blossomed.

“That time was a period of all the stuff that I watched in my first four years, trying to bring it together and finding my own way of doing it, becoming myself as a player,” Bennett said of his season with the Giants. “It was a phenomenal year for me in life. New York changed me as a human being. I always say that in Texas you can be a horse, but in New York you can be a unicorn. It was a very impactful year, not only on the field but as a person as well. I grew up a lot there.”

He left as a free agent after that 2012 season, when he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns. He signed a big contract with the Bears and then landed with the Patriots this past offseason.

But the Giants gave him a chance when others didn’t.

“It was my first chance to really be a starter,” he said. “Playing with Eli Manning, who is one of the best quarterbacks of all time to me, and with the guys I had at the time, Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, Victor Cruz, everybody was in their prime and it was just a great group of guys.”

Bennett said he still carries some of the lessons Manning taught him, sometimes to the chagrin of other quarterbacks.

“I still remember this summer I would be like, ‘Hey, Tom, Eli always used to say do it like this,’ ” Bennett said of his workouts with Tom Brady. “And sometimes Tom would be like: ‘I want you to do it like this.’ ”

Whether it was in Chicago or New England, Bennett has become a bit of an ambassador for the Giants.

“I love the Giants,” he said. “That was one of my favorite organizations. A lot of guys have been on the same team for so long so they always ask me about other organizations, and I always tell them how awesome the Giants were.

“They had the best food in the kitchen,” he added. “The food was so delicious. That’s probably the reason why I signed there as a free agent, because the food was good, which is important for the job. It’s like a perk.”

Bennett, 29, will be a free agent after this Super Bowl. The Giants likely will be in the market for a tight end who can catch passes and help in the run-blocking game. Could there be a reunion?

“I don’t know, but I always loved it there,” Bennett said. “Jerry Reese and all those guys were great. The Tisch and Mara families are some of the best owners in the world. I liked it up there.”

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