Many of Jeremy Shockey’s fondest memories of his time as a tight end with the Giants stem from his conversations with co-owner Wellington Mara. The two had a very close relationship and would engage in soulful discussions about life, about football, about just about anything.
“I always tried to be a sponge when I was around The Duke, God rest his soul,” Shockey told Newsday in a phone interview. “I was very fortunate to get to know him on a very personal level. We had multiple conversations about life and football and it’s something I’ll hold dear to my heart forever.”
On Sunday, Shockey will get to be the embodiment of one of Wellington Mara’s favorite phrases: Once a Giant, always a Giant. He will return to MetLife Stadium as a Giant for the first time since his messy divorce from the team in 2008 and be part of the team’s Alumni Day celebration. About 80 former players are spending the weekend together and the game together and will be introduced to the crowd at halftime. Shockey will be among them.
“I’m excited, I can’t hide that,” Shockey told Newsday. “My excitement is there. There’s no lying about that . . . I’m excited to see everyone. I haven’t seen John Mara, I haven’t seen a lot of guys in a long time, Steve Tisch. I’m excited to see them. I’m excited to see if I can get a chance to see Eli [Manning].’’
Shockey was a first-round pick in 2002 and played six seasons with the Giants. He is fourth on the franchise’s list of pass receptions (371).
He was traded to the Saints after the 2007 season, one that ended with a Super Bowl for the team but also with Shockey on injured reserve with a fractured leg. That was the end of his playing career with the Giants and his public connection to them as well.
Shockey didn’t purposely stay away from the Giants all these years any more than he is purposely returning. He already had plans to be in the New York area on business when he heard about the alumni events. “It just worked out,” he said. And he is glad it did.
“It was a life-changing experience coming out of college,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect, where I was going to go, and then God looks after me again and I get drafted by the best franchise in the NFL . . . I always have a special place in my heart for people who are loyal to me like the Maras and the Tisches. They always treated me like family and I owe them a lot more than a handshake or something. Those guys, they really believed in me and it changed my life forever. The six years I had in New York were amazing. It was amazing playing with Kerry [Collins], it was amazing playing with Eli, and all the teammates like Michael Strahan and everyone.”
Shockey said he has watched only a handful of football games in person since he left the NFL and has never been to MetLife Stadium. He said he doesn’t want to be a distraction to the team, and that the most important part of the day is their game against the Bills and not 80 or so old-timers parading onto the field.
Shockey still is a popular player. His jersey is seen often at current Giants games and fans recall him as a key link in the team’s tight end lineage. His time with the Giants often was turbulent and he left in a cloud of acrimony, to be sure. But time has healed those scars on both sides.
“I had a great six years here, had great teammates, was in the most powerful city in the world, and was on a football team that was amazing,” he said.
“It’s good to be back.”