EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning took home the MVP. Plaxico Burress had the game-winning catch. David Tyree got the biggest prize in the 2008 Super Bowl — an unforgettable moment that forever will be his.
No play in the New York Giants’ 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots has been shown more than Tyree’s fourth-quarter catch of a ball against his helmet with defender Rodney Harrison draped over him.
It led to Manning’s last-minute touchdown pass to Burress and changed Tyree’s life.
The New Jersey native became a hero in the New York metropolitan area, earned up to $15,000 per appearance fees, made numerous television and radio appearances, wrote a book and even met people with whom he would later work.
“The truth of it was I was never going to have a moment ever in my career that was going to eclipse that,” Tyree said in a conference call about what is known as “The Catch” in Giants history. “It gave me a sense of peace as far as moving on and knowing I had a career that I can be satisfied with.
“It’s not about the money; it’s about, for me, having a moment that transcends my own personal career, to be a part of Giants history, NFL history, Super Bowl history,” Tyree said. “That’s something that most people who’ve had far better careers than myself never had.”
A sixth-round draft pick out of Syracuse by the Giants in 2003, Tyree didn’t do much after the Super Bowl. He hurt his knee and missed the following season, and spent his last year with Baltimore, failing to make a catch. He retired in 2010 after signing a one-day contract with the Giants.
Off the field, Tyree has turned around his life. His days of drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana are long behind him and he has become born-again Christian
The 32-year-old father of six serves as the director of strategic partnerships at Tepidus Group, a company involved in wealth management, marketing and philanthropic ventures. He is also writing another book with his wife, Leilah, that intends to “challenge the core of our culture.”
One thing they will address, he said is “how we esteem people who are in the limelight and have been given pedestals and platforms.”
Tyree also is the senior vice president of the International Children’s Support Foundation, which tries to improve the lives children.
The Pro Bowl special teams player also isn’t afraid to express his religious beliefs. He has come out against same sex marriages, and he has been criticized by many.
“I knew what I was getting myself into,” he said.
Tyree plans to attend the Super Bowl next week and he said he might get a few speaking engagements out of it.
Tyree has watched the Giants (12-7) current run to a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots and he marvels at the similarities, calling them spooky.
New York has once again made a late-season rush and done its most damage in the postseason on the road, knocking off the defending champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC division round and the San Francisco 49ers in the conference title game.
After the 2007 regular season, the Giants won all their playoff games on the road, winning at Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay.
Placekicker Lawrence Tynes made game-winning field goals in overtime both conference championship games.
“I might have been just as speechless as I was when we won the Super Bowl four years ago,” Tyree said.
Tyree had three catches in the Super Bowl, including one for a touchdown. The one everybody remembers is the 32-yarder on a third-and-5 play with 1:15 to play and the Giants trailing the then-unbeaten Patriots 14-10.
Manning avoided a big pass rush and lofted a long pass down the middle. Tyree leapt, got his hands on the ball, then pinned it against his helmet, first with one hand and then the other. All the while, Harrison was pulling Tyree to the ground by the arm.
Harrison said Wednesday that the only time he thought about the play was when his son gave him a book for Christmas a couple of years ago with a picture of the play on the front cover.
“It’s in my office,” Harrison said. “Every time I walk in my office I see it so I’m reminded of it every single day.
“But it doesn’t haunt me. It’s something that happened, you know. It’s almost funny because I look back at my career and I started thinking, do I have any regrets? And I don’t really have any regrets because I played hard, I played tough, I played physical and you ask this guy to make this catch a million other times, he doesn’t make it. So it’s just one of those things that you look at and say, ‘wow, you know what? No matter what I could have done, he was going to catch that ball. It was just meant to happen.’ ”
Call it fate. But it’s a catch that made Tyree famous and gave him a place in football history.