10 years af­ter great­est catch in Su­per Bowl his­tory, Tyree still blends into the crowd

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY PAT LEONARD new york daily news

As Gi­ants get set to honor Su­per Bowl XLII champs, we catch up with game’s hero, David Tyree

IT’S BEEN 10 sea­sons since David Tyree used five fin­gers and one hel­met to make the sin­gu­lar great­est catch in Su­per Bowl his­tory. And yet not one per­son rec­og­nized Gi­ants Su­per Bowl XLII hero David Tyree on 42nd Street in Man­hat­tan on Fri­day night or stopped for an au­to­graph.

“Hey, I’m still anony­mous man,” Tyree, 37, now the Gi­ants’ di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment, said with a laugh as he en­tered for­mer coach Tom Cough­lin’s 13th an­nual Jay Fund Cham­pi­ons for Chil­dren din­ner at Cipri­ani.

But while Tyree may not draw a crowd, he is for­ever im­mor­tal­ized by his in­cred­i­ble grab of Eli Man­ning’s pass on the Gi­ants’ game-win­ning drive to knock off the un­de­feated New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots. Now when­ever an NFL re­ceiver makes a great catch, it’s im­pos­si­ble to gauge its sig­nif­i­cance with­out com­par­ing it to Tyree’s.

“If it’s not the best, it’s cer­tainly the stan­dard,” Tyree said with a smile.

Funny enough, Tyree ac­tu­ally be­lieves a Pa­triot’s re­cent Su­per Bowl hero­ics rep­re­sent the only catch com­pa­ra­ble to his own: Ju­lian Edel­man’s div­ing fourth-quar­ter jug­gling grab in Su­per Bowl LI in Fe­bru­ary, snag­ging a tipped ball with his fin­ger­tips and the help of a Fal­cons de­fender’s shoe in a pile of three At­lanta play­ers.

“I’ll say this: Of all the catches that have kind of come along since my catch 10 years ago, Edel­man’s was — I feel per­son­ally — that was the only one that was com­pa­ra­ble,” Tyree said. “No one has ever heard me say I made the great­est catch in Su­per Bowl his­tory. I let other peo­ple do that. (But) ev­ery time a great catch comes along — this is my one claim to fame, if you want to call it that — they don’t re­ally com­pare it to any­body else’s catch; they com­pare it to the hel­met catch. That’s the stan­dard.”

What el­e­vates Tyree and Edel­man into an­other strato­sphere is not just the dif­fi­culty of their catches, ei­ther, but also the cir­cum­stances and stakes in which they ac­com­plished their im­pos­si­ble feat.

Tyree made his 32-yard grab with Pa­tri­ots safety Rod­ney Har­ri­son draped all over him, on third-and-5 with 59 sec­onds left in a Su­per Bowl, and the Gi­ants trail­ing New Eng­land, 14-10, lead­ing to the big­gest up­set in Su­per Bowl his­tory. Edel­man made his 23-yard catch on first-and-10 with just over two min­utes left on the game-ty­ing drive in the great­est come­back in Su­per Bowl his­tory.

That is why, while Dal­las Cow­boys re­ceiver Cole Beasley’s ridicu­lous be­hind-the-back grab against the Gi­ants last week — with the help of Beasley’s hel­met — de­served Tyree’s tipof-the-cap, it’s not in the same class.

“(Beasley’s catch) was pretty freaky,” Tyree said. “I wasn’t sure if he ac­tu­ally grabbed it with­out touch­ing his hel­met or on his hel­met. Ei­ther way it was phe­nom­e­nal. The fact that it was be­hind the head, the swag­ger level on that was 1,000. (But) for the most part if I had to ar­gue my case, (my catch was made with) fac­tors that very likely will never be cre­ated again. It’s the dream sce­nario, and that’s what makes it what it was.”

Mon­day night at half­time of the Gi­ants’ home opener against the Detroit Li­ons, the fran­chise will be hon­or­ing Tyree, Tom Cough­lin and the 2007 Su­per Bowl Champion Gi­ants on their 10th an­niver­sary. Tyree’s hel­met won’t be on hand, though. It’s in Can­ton, on dis­play at the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame, which ful­filled a pre­dic­tion Tyree says one of his friends eerily had made the night be­fore Su­per Bowl XLII.

“I re­mem­ber some­body ac­tu­ally said, ‘David, you’re gonna be in the Hall of Fame,’ and I knew where I was in my ca­reer, as a spe­cial teams player and a role player,” Tyree re­called. “I was like, ‘OK. A lot has got to hap­pen and change in my ca­reer for that to hap­pen (laughs). But when they asked for the hel­met in the Hall of Fame, I was like, I’m in the Hall of Fame.’”

Tyree still mar­vels he was able to crack Can­ton: The hel­met catch was the last catch of his oth­er­wise or­di­nary six-year NFL ca­reer in which he caught only 54 to­tal passes in 83 ca­reer games. It was also only his third catch of that Su­per Bowl, af­ter a five-yard re­cep­tion and a six-yard TD grab early in the fourth quar­ter.

“I was hard­pressed to teach him to make that catch. It took me a long time,” Cough­lin joked Fri­day.

It is equally as hard to be­lieve when hear­ing the story of Tyree’s ter­ri­ble prac­tice the Fri­day be­fore the game.

“(Tyree’s bad prac­tice) was on our mind all the way through,” Cough­lin said. “But Eli grabbed him, put his arm around him and told him we all knew he would come through in the game. And he did. But that prac­tice was some­thing else. (Tyree) tells the story of An­to­nio Pierce and (Michael) Stra­han stand­ing on the side­line yelling, “Beat ‘em up, ball! Beat ‘em up, ball!” Be­cause the ball hit him ev­ery which way.” Tyree can’t pre­tend it wasn’t as bad as his team­mates and for­mer coach made it seem. “I think it’s safe to say I’d def­i­nitely had a bad prac­tice be­fore, just never be­fore the big­gest game of any hu­man’s life, when you con­sider that’s sup­posed to be the clean­est prac­tice of the week,” Tyree said with a smirk. “It just couldn’t have come at a worse time. But hav­ing a bad prac­tice is drop­ping two balls. You can’t even count how many balls I dropped at that prac­tice. (Still), it didn’t af­fect my con­fi­dence. It was great hav­ing Eli come along­side of me at the end of the day and say, ‘Lis­ten, man, I know you’re gonna be ready.” Man­ning’s es­cape from the clutches of the Pa­tri­ots’ pass rush was equally as amaz­ing be­fore he lofted the pass to Tyree. In fact, when the Daily News ap­proached Odell Beck­ham Jr. in Fri­day’s open locker room to ask him for his take on Tyree’s mag­i­cal catch, Beck­ham turned to Man­ning and said: “Hey, Eli! He’s ask­ing me about that throw you made to Tyree.”

Man­ning re­cently told the Gi­ants’ web­site of the play: “I saw a white jersey in the mid­dle of the field. I was look­ing down the field just for some­body. I saw David and we were just kind of run­ning out of time … thought I’d put it up for him and give him a chance where hope­fully he could catch it.”

Har­ri­son, the Pa­tri­ots’ safety, was de­fi­ant in his in­ter­view re­count­ing Tyree’s catch: “Are you kid­ding me? Nah, there’s noth­ing I would do dif­fer­ently … They didn’t score on that … (But) that drained us … I mean, a one-in-amil­lion catch … But the thing I was most frus­trated about it our in­abil­ity to re­spond.”

Tyree said he had no idea how great of a catch he had made at first. He didn’t even see a re­play un­til he got back to the ho­tel to cel­e­brate. “I knew it was a great catch. His­toric? No,” he said laugh­ing.

But Tyree said his un­der­stand­ing set in when he heard Steve Sabol, the late for­mer pres­i­dent and founder of NFL Films, call it the great­est catch in Su­per Bowl his­tory. “Be­cause I didn’t know much about NFL his­tory or any kind of his­tory, but I knew Steve Sabol did,” Tyree said. So what lessons if any does he take from that sea­son, that catch, that im­prob­a­ble vic­tory?

“For me per­son­ally, I’m a fa­ther rais­ing seven chil­dren, I’ve got 75 other chil­dren at the fa­cil­ity in my job, and I think there’s some mo­ments when it can hit home,” Tyree said. “(There’s) the re­solve, the need to have be­lief, in­ner be­lief but also in things out­side of your­self — for me it was God. Hav­ing a foun­da­tion, over­com­ing ad­ver­sity, los­ing my mom, start­ing the sea­son not know­ing whether I was gonna be on the ros­ter. All of those things, it makes for the whole story not just for me in­di­vid­u­ally but for the mantra of our team, what we had to over­come to be cham­pi­ons.”

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