At first, David Tyree did not know what all the fuss was about. As he conducted interviews after Super Bowl XLII almost 10 years ago, he couldn’t really grasp why everyone wanted to talk to him.
“I knew it was a great catch,” Tyree said of his iconic helmet grab. “Historic? No. It was pretty wild. I didn’t see it until I got back to the hotel, so I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal. My immediate interviews were giving Eli all the credit. That was half the miracle right there. But I had no claims to any greatness other than the fact that it was a great catch.”
Ten years later, that’s still all anyone wants to talk to Tyree about. And it certainly has been a topic of conversation among the 2007 Giants this weekend as they gathered for a reunion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their championship season.
Tyree, speaking at Friday night’s Champions for Children Gala in Manhattan to support Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund, the unofficial kickoff for the festivities of the weekend, said he began to realize the magnitude of the catch only when one of the founders of NFL Films gave it his stamp of approval.
“Once I saw Steve Sabol’s quote, I knew I was on to something,” Tyree said. “I didn’t know much about NFL history, but I knew Steve Sabol did. Once he said that this was the greatest play in Super Bowl history, I just kind of rolled with him and let everybody else do the speaking. Obviously, there were a lot of interviews, and I expected that, but once he said that, I realized this was something way beyond me.”
The aspects of the catch have become legend, from Tyree’s pitiful practice the day before the game — “Having a bad practice is dropping two balls. I can’t even count how many balls I dropped in that practice,” he said — to Manning’s Houdini escape to the catch itself.
“I went up with two hands, I felt it with two hands for a second, I knew I lost control with one of my hands,” Tyree recalled on Friday. “But I’m just thinking in my mind, ‘I got it.’ ”
Tyree’s helmet from the catch is in the Hall of Fame in Canton. The ball? It’s in Plaxico Burress’ living room in New Jersey.
“I still have the ball,” Burress said at the Jay Fund event. “After he made the catch, we kept going. The referees didn’t get the chance to switch the ball out.”
Not until Manning hit Burress in the end zone for the game-winning TD at the end of the drive.
“David Tyree said he wants to split it six months out of the year,” Burress joked. “Tyree is on TV saying it’s his ball. I ended up with it last, how is it your ball? It’s at my house. You can come over and look at it and touch it. We have fun with it. But I do have the ball.”
A decade later, that catch still stands up. There are other contenders, though.
“Of all the catches that have come along since my catch 10 years ago, [Julian] Edelman’s was, I feel personally, the only one that was comparable,” Tyree said of the Patriots receiver’s juggling grab in traffic in Super Bowl LI this past February. “I’ll give him that.”
There have been other catches, too, that people want to link to Tyree’s. Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-hander against the Cowboys three years ago. Even the behind-the-helmet grab made by Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley last week against the Giants.
“It was pretty freaky,” Tyree said of Beasley’s play, which was like a combination of Beckham and Tyree. “The swagger level on that was a thousand.”
But it wasn’t in a Super Bowl. It wasn’t on a game-winning drive. It wasn’t against a team that was less than two minutes away from completing an undefeated season.
“If I had to argue my case, there were factors that will very likely never be created again,” Tyree said. “It’s the dream scenario. That’s what makes it what it was.”
And makes it what it remains.
“No one has ever heard me say I made the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. I let other people do that,” Tyree said. “But every time a great catch comes along, and this is my one claim to fame, they don’t really compare it to anybody else’s catch. They compare it to the helmet catch. Let’s call that the standard. If it’s not the best, it’s certainly the standard.”