Flashback: How Several ‘Ordinary’ Giants Ended Up Being ‘Super’

As one of more than 5,000 credentialed  media members to SuperBowl XLII, the biggest challenge was trying to come up with different angles and ideas to draw readership.

I can’t remember how I came up with the idea of doing a “Born to Be Giants” series, but I do remember at the time that it was one of the most widely read items on the Inside Football web site during Super Bowl week.

So as we get ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of that 2007 New York Giants Super Bowl team, here  in its entirety are the stories–in their own words) of how several “every-day guys” had their destinies shaped toward becoming a part of the most amazing Super Bowl run of its kind. 

LG Rich Seubert: “When you’re growing up and you’re the biggest kid in grade school, they stick you at offensive line. Growing up, I went to a real small school, so I also played defensive line. In college (Western Illinois), I actually started out as a tight end and then they moved me to offensive line.

“The offensive line was kind of set and they needed help at tight end, so they said they could get me on the field if I played some tight end. I was fine with that, but all along, I think the plan was to move me down the line to the offensive line. I’m here now so everything worked out great. I did play tackle in college. I wish I had played a little center, but I’m happy at left guard – there’s no other place I’d rather play.”

CB Corey Webster: “It was all (former LSU head) Coach (Nick) Saban’s idea. When we were at LSU together, I started out as a wide receiver and then switched over to cornerback. Before that, in high school I played some quarterback. When I got to LSU, I played receiver for about a year and Coach Saban one day decided to try me at cornerback, probably because at the time, I was the third receiver on the team.

“What happened was we ended up getting some injuries at cornerback, and they needed me to practice there just in cases of an emergency. Sure enough, a guy breaks his hand, and now I have to play cornerback. I went out, made a couple of plays, and the light went on in everyone’s head, as they started thinking, ‘Gee, maybe we have something here.’ Since then, I’ve been at cornerback and haven’t really looked back since. All along, I just wanted to play football – I didn’t care what position I played so long as I could get out there on the field.”

TE Michael Matthews: “I started out in high school playing running back, tight end and defensive end. When I went to Georgia Tech, I was a defensive end at first, but that first year during spring football, two of the fullbacks got hurt, so they moved me back to offense because they knew I had played offense in high school. So I started playing fullback, and I just stuck there for a while. Eventually as I got bigger, they moved me to tight end.”

(I asked Matthews if he was ever considered for offensive line.)

“I really didn’t want that thought to enter the coaches’ minds. So I really put an effort into showing how athletic I was because offensive linemen are typically not as athletic as tight ends are. At the time, I also had a problem with my weight, but I quickly got that under control.

“I like playing tight end because while you do have to block, you get a chance to put your hands on the ball every once in a while. I haven’t played offensive line since I was nine years old, and I really would rather not entertain that thought because I just feel that tight end is more of a natural position for me.”

DT Fred Robbins: “I didn’t start playing football until I got to high school, and when I did, they put me at tight end. My second year, a couple of guys on defense went down with injuries so they switched me over to defensive end. Once I started at that spot, and I made that first hit as a member of the defense, I didn’t think twice about going back. It’s better to hit somebody than to be hit – that’s the mindset I took. I started to get a lot of attention as a defensive end when I was looking at colleges, so I pretty much decided to stick with that position.

LB Gerris Wilkinson: “Back in pee-wee football, I played left tackle. When I got to high school, I started off at linebacker so I guess that’s what I had the body type for. Since then, I moved to tight end, middle linebacker in high school. In college, I played linebacker and defensive end. Once I started being scouted by the NFL, I was pretty much certain that I’d find a home at linebacker. I couldn’t see playing defensive end at 230 pounds.

“I think I have the ability to play more than weak side linebacker. I actually played all three linebacker spots in college. My junior and senior year, I played in the middle. My most productive years in college were at middle linebacker. Ever since I came to the Giants, they see me as a weak side linebacker.

“I really didn’t think that I was really best suited for that spot, but I can play weak side or the middle. Most people perceive a middle linebacker as someone who is really confident and boisterous and a wild man. I’m more laid back and mild mannered. It’s worked for me so far.”

RB Reuben Droughns: “Growing up in Chicago, I watched Walter Payton play a lot, and I thought it was cool and I liked how he ran and acted off the field. He was a big man in Chicago and I wanted to be exactly like him. I got my opportunity when I came back to California.

“A friend of mine, Dustin Goetz talked me into trying out for Pop Warner football. I tried out and I didn’t get a chance to play running back right away. It was funny because I wanted to, but they tried me at defensive back and offensive line.

“So when I got a chance to play at the Pop Warner level as a running back, I ran back a 90-yard touchdown in the game – but it was called back by a penalty. But the second time, I ran it back for 80 yards, so I got my touchdown. Since then, a running back was born, and I haven’t looked back since.

“I also play a little bit of fullback – I’m not sure where that came from, to be honest, as it’s not a position I really think is my best one. I got the opportunity in Denver to play fullback, when to make the team, you have to do something. I was like, ‘I don’t mind playing fullback; it’s cool.’ I blocked for Clinton Portis who rushed 1,400 yards in one season and then the next season over 1,500 yards. It was pretty rewarding to block for a guy who rushed for that many yards.

“You have to be tough to be a running back. You have to be relentless. If you’re not tough, you’re not going to be able to take all those hits. Deep down inside, we’re like strong safeties who also like to dish out punishment. We have the safety mentality where we’ll come down and smack you.”

QB Jared Lorenzen:.“I was five years old and showed up to play pee-wee football. I started at tight end for three or four days. Then one day, my coach saw me throw a football about 30 yards and he said,

‘There’s our new quarterback.’ So from that point on, I’ve been playing quarterback. I had that same coach for about six years, and despite getting bigger, he kept me at quarterback.

“When you’re five years old, you think it’s cool because you’re getting the ball on every play. But I absolutely despised taking a snap. At five years old, I didn’t want to put my hands on another guy’s butt. I eventually got over that fear and haven’t looked back since.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a quarterback. I don’t want to say a ‘smart man’ because I don’t want to sound arrogant – but you definitely have to know every formation, where everyone goes and every play. That’s fun for me because I like being able to control and orchestrate an entire offense.

“When you’re that young, you’re trying to spit a play out. When I went to high school, I had to start all over again in terms of learning the finer points of the position. But I’ve had fun with it, and hopefully it will continue for another 10 years.”

S Michael Johnson: “I was in high school and played cornerback until about halfway through my senior year. Then one of the safeties got hurt, so I had to move over to safety and ever since then that’s what I’ve played. I did play corner in junior college, but mostly in practice just to get some reps. You have to be able to run routes for the receiver.

“People don’t understand how hard it is to cover these little fast guys. You have to be really talented at the man-to-man coverage. I’m a safety. I run down and I hit the people after they cut into the zones. I love hitting guys and dishing out punishment. I think a good safety needs to be physical and play fast and be a little crazy too, and that’s what I try to be.”

RG Chris Snee: “I think a large part of my ending up on the line was my weight. It was something they put me at from day one. I started in eighth grade, and it’s something I enjoy doing because of the physical nature and all the little things. It’s something that grew on me, and that was where I wanted to play in college. I started out at guard, then when I moved to the high school arena, the main areas where we’d run would be off the right tackle, so they moved me to right tackle. I played there in high school. Then I moved to guard in college.

“Offensive linemen need to have a mean streak when they play. It’s tough; it’s a switch you have to flip on when you get on the field. On our team, every guy on the line is a nice guy who’s easy to talk to, but we all play with a mean streak.

“On game day or the Saturday night meeting leading up to the game, you start getting your mind right for the game you’re about to play. It’s not easy to flip that switch, but I think our guys do a great job of it here. I love where I’m at, and hopefully I can do it for many years to come.”

DT Jay Alford: “When I was 11, I was too big to play any skill positions, but I was also too fast to be an offensive lineman, so they made me a defensive lineman. Defensive linemen are typically more athletic than offensive linemen. I wanted to be a quarterback.

“I played quarterback in my freshman year of high school at the JV (junior varsity) level. I had a great time. But I got too big. I don’t look back and wish that I were at a different position. I think this is the perfect spot for me. I couldn’t do quarterback because there’s too much going on, and I don’t like being hit; I like hitting people. So it worked out well.”

LB Chase Blackburn: “When I was six, I started playing ball and that’s where they put me. I’ve played middle linebacker all my life. I didn’t really want to try any other position. I like the contact; I like being in the middle of everything. As far as being a linebacker, you can play both the run and the pass, so I like both aspects of it.

“The middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, and that’s why I like that position because I used to play quarterback on offense, so I figured why not play the same position on the defensive side? The older I became, the more responsibilities I was given at that position in calling out plays. I like doing it. You have to have a combination of smart and dumb. Smart enough to know all your stuff and dumb enough to be able to run and hit everything at full speed and not care about it.”

FB Madison Hedgecock: “I was always a running back in grade school. In high school, I played fullback, tight end, and linebacker. I was actually a full-time fullback starting my freshman year of college. Then they moved me to defensive end for a couple of seasons because they were desperate over there. Then they moved me back to fullback my senior year.

“I think if you want to be a good fullback, one of the things you have to be able to do fairly well is lead block. That’s something I seem to do well, so that’s what I got a job doing. As a fullback, you don’t really get the ball much, which I’m used to, but I would take the ball if they gave it to me.”

TE Kevin Boss: “I started out as a tight end. In seventh grade was the first time I could play tackle football and my coach wanted me to play quarterback. For some reason, I was meant to be a tight end. I don’t know why or where it came from, but I wanted to be a tight end, and I haven’t looked back since.”

RT Kareem McKenzie: “I was a large child, and they put me on the offensive line and defensive line. Here I am today. Since then, I haven’t played any other positions as a pro. Pretty much in high school I was a tackle because I was one of the taller kids, and I was actually able to get out to the edge pretty good and protected the quarterback from the defensive end.

“I was also too big to play center – the small kid could play center and have the help on both sides. I’m more of an edge guy that really didn’t need that much help. For me it was guard or tackle – I never really wanted to play any other position growing up. I did play left tackle for quite a few years in high school and college; the only place I haven’t played left tackle is here in the National Football League and that’s fine with me. Wherever I am best suited to play, that’s where I’ll be.”

RB Brandon Jacobs: “I’ve always been a running back. At Auburn, they wanted me to play linebacker and then they wanted me to play tight end. I really wasn’t feeling any of it because I always played running  back.  You  can’t  ask  a  guy  to  change  his  position  his  senior  year  in  the  Southeastern Conference, where the level of play is higher than anything. You can’t ask that, and that’s what they asked me to do, so I took option two and transferred.”

DE Justin Tuck: “I started off playing quarterback in seventh and eighth grade, but obviously I wasn’t too good at that. Then I played a little running back, a little tight end, and some wide receiver in high school. “One day, I threw an interception in a game my freshman year and made the tackle, and the coach was like, ‘Hmm, maybe we should try him on defense.’

“So, I started out playing safety, but then I grew into the mold of a linebacker and played there my sophomore and junior year. At the end of my junior year, our defensive ends got hurt, so I told my coach I’d played defensive end. So, I played the position and haven’t looked back since. In the pros, I’ve been playing defensive tackle as well, something I think happened because I’m fast and they were basically trying to get some more speed on the football field in passing downs. Now I am in there for running downs too, so maybe I’m not a defensive end any more.”