Rashad Jennings never gave up hope.
“You don’t wonder that it’s never going to happen, you just look forward to when it does,” Jennings said on Tuesday. “And this is the year that it is.”
For the first time in his career, Jennings is going to the playoffs. The eight-year veteran has never been there — never even been on a winning team until this season — and is the Giant who has gone the longest without ever reaching the postseason.
Which is why he appreciated it more than just about anyone else.
“Man, I was jumping up and down,” he said of his reaction to the news a week ago Saturday that the Giants had clinched a playoff spot. “Finally. Finally, man. It doesn’t happen every year, obviously I’m living proof of that. To hear that you’re going to get a chance to play that 17th game, that’s a stepping stone to a dream come true.”
Jennings has played for some terrible teams in his career. He spent four seasons with the Jaguars and one year with the Raiders before coming to the Giants just in time to have them suffer back-to-back losing seasons. Now in his third year with the team, he’s finally going to taste postseason football.
“You play the game to make that stepping stone, to get to the 17th game, and it’s something that for the first time in my career, I’m a part of a team that’s been able to do that,” Jennings said. “We earned that. It’s exciting.”
He won’t be alone in braving the new world of playoff football. The majority of the Giants’ players have never been there. Even for the veterans of past Super Bowl teams still with the Giants, it’s been a while. The Giants have not been to the playoffs since the 2011 title run.
Victor Cruz laughed when asked how surprised he would have been to be told that after winning Super Bowl XLVI, he would not make it back to the playoffs until the 2016 season.
“Extremely surprised, obviously, because when you win a Super Bowl and you’ve got a good core team around, you think you’re going to do two or three in a row, at least into the postseason,” he said. “Obviously, that’s why this game is so great. You can go every year, you can go once every seven years. We just want to make sure we’re appreciating the moments that you have with your teammates and in the postseason and cherish those times, because you don’t know when they’re going to come again.”