They stood in the tunnel waiting to take the field together, waiting to hear all their names announced en masse for the first time in nearly 10 years.
They wore jerseys with jeans and sneakers. Helmets and pads had been replaced by receding hairlines and extra pounds. What remained the same, however, was the deep affection that the members of the Giants Super Bowl XLII winning team had for one another.
“Winning that game, it was such an awesome feeling, especially the way we did it,” former defensive end Justin Tuck said Monday night right before he and his teammates were honored at halftime of the Giants game against the Lions. “I just love these guys. We shared something special.”
All year long, the Giants are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 team that upset the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots entered the game 12-point favorites after becoming the first team to complete a perfect regular season since the 1972 Dolphins. With the win, the Giants became the first NFC wild-card team to win a Super Bowl.
The high point of that season’s celebration was a special halftime ceremony last night at MetLife Stadium. More than 50 players and coaches from the team were on hand, including Tom Coughlin, Michael Strahan, Plaxico Burress, David Tyree and Amani Toomer.
The ceremony capped a reunion weekend that began Friday with a fundraiser in support of Coughlin’s Jay Fund and continued into Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, where the captains from that squad threw the first pitch.
Yet, there was nothing like the standing ovation the team received from fans last night. Strahan, the last player to take the field, ran toward the stage carrying the Super Bowl Trophy. He then thanked the fans and led them in a cheer.
The players remembered the season as if it were yesterday. The Giants got off to an 0-2 start that year, but tackle Chris Snee said they were an incredibly tight team and never doubted they had what it took to win it all. Snee said they never doubted that quarterback Eli Manning had the ability to get them into the end zone on the final drive. That drive became the stuff of NFL legend, featuring memorable receptions by David Tyree and Plaxico Burress.
“We all believed in him,” Snee said. “We all had confidence. He was a guy who was never fazed by the situation.”
Though the game-winning drive was what people remember most about the win, the Giants defense may have been the true star of the game. Tuck, in particular, had a spectacular game, sacking quarterback Tom Brady twice and forcing one fumble. Brady has called the loss the biggest disappointment of his career, and that’s just fine with Tuck.
Said Tuck: “Fortunately, it’s all on film. So if I ever forget anything, I can just watch it. But the feeling of winning that game is something I will never forget.”