At six-feet-five, Plaxico Burress’s height was always an advantage when he was playing football. On Friday night, as he stood in a Manhattan ballroom, it once again came in handy. With his head above the crowd he was able to scan the area from a vantage point few others had. What he saw wherever he looked were memories.
The 2007 Giants are in town this weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Super Bowl season. The festivities began on Friday at the Champions for Children Gala in support of Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund, continued into Saturday at Yankee Stadium where captains from that squad threw out ceremonial first pitches, and will culminate on Monday night at halftime of the Giants-Lions game when they are brought onto the field at MetLife Stadium.
Friday, though, was the real reunion. The first chance to be together.
“It’s beautiful,” Burress said of his view. “I haven’t seen some of these guys since we won the game. It’s amazing how time flies. When you see an individual that you shared a dream with and you haven’t seen them in so long, automatically the memories come back.”
In many ways, they never left. Super Bowls do that, freezing moments in time and branding images in the consciousness of all those who watched. This team certainly had its share of those iconic moments, from the catches by David Tyree and Burress on the final game-winning drive to the game a month earlier when the Giants stood toe-to-toe with the still undefeated Patriots in the regular-season finale.
“I remember those moments that they talk about as if they were yesterday,” Tom Coughlin said at the Friday night event. “Good stuff.”
“It seems like it was just yesterday,” Giants co-owner John Mara said of Super Bowl XLII. “It was a very special memory. It was the greatest victory we ever had as a franchise. To beat that team, in that setting, will always be the most special for me.”
But when they got together, the players and coaches didn’t talk much about the plays that Giants fans find irresistible. They didn’t go over the strategies or rehash the schemes.
What they discussed, invariably, was the bond that they formed during their run, and how it remains strong a decade later.
“The biggest takeaway from that season was really the relationships and the friendships,” said Kevin Boss, a rookie tight end on that team. “I was never part of a better locker room. That locker room was just amazing. Being a young guy and having guys, veterans to look up to like [Michael] Strahan and Amani [Toomer] and Sam Madison, it was a really unique locker room. That’s what some of us were talking about over there.”
“Anyone could have caught the game-winning touchdown,” Burress said. “That’s just how we were collectively as a group. We didn’t have any egos. We played hard for one another. If Toomer had two TD’s, or if Ahmad [Bradshaw] ran for 200 yards or Brandon [Jacobs], no one cared because all we wanted to do was win.”
From the big names that come immediately to mind to some that need jostling to recall, the 2007 Giants seemed to fall right back into their familiar places.
“Someone asked me, ‘Are you able to keep up?’” Coughlin said. “Well, I can keep up with the guys I see on a normal basis, occasionally text and so on, but not many. I am looking forward to seeing a bunch of guys tonight that I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Unlike Coughlin, many of the players actually remain friends in a very 21st century way.
“A lot of us have stayed in touch through social media a little bit,” Boss said. “Maybe we don’t talk but we watch each others’ lives and kids and stuff. Everyone seems happy and it seems like everyone has some sort of success in their life.”
The prevailing sentiment on Friday was disbelief that it has been 10 years since their ultimate triumph.
“We were all kids or young men chasing this dream and we were able to do that and reach the pinnacle of the sport,” Burress said. “To me it doesn’t seem like 10 years. It flew by so fast. You savor it. I always say that we really didn’t understand how special it was at the time because we were so excited that we just won the Super Bowl. As time goes on, you start to realize how special it really was.”
The lessons from that game and that season also prevail.
“Probably everything that we did at that time influenced me,” said Coughlin, who went on to win another Super Bowl with the Giants and is now the executive vice president of football operations for the Jaguars. “There are tremendous memories that I have and lessons that you take with you.”
“There are some moments where it can hit home,” Tyree said of useful takeaways from 2007. “The resolve. The need to have inner belief, but also belief in things outside of yourself. For me it was God. Overcoming adversity. Losing my mom, starting the season not even knowing whether I was going to be on the roster. All those things. It makes for the whole story, not just for me but collectively as the mantra of our team, of what we had to overcome to be champions.”
Not that they need a reunion to remember all of that.
“Someone brings it up to me every day,” said Burress, who still lives in New Jersey. “It’s gratifying that people appreciate what you’ve been through or went through to get to that point. It’s a lot of hard work that we all put in. It’s still emotional because no one expected us to do it. We knew exactly what we put in to it to get to that point. It was a lot of sacrifice from guys playing hurt and guys taking lesser roles for the betterment of the team. It wasn’t just one person.”
It was one team. Then, and now.