(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Ernie Accorsi interview, click on the following attachment: https://www.spreaker.com/user/fullpresscoverage/eyetest-ep46)
Late-round draft picks can be building blocks to championship teams, and look no farther than quarterback Tom Brady. He was the 199th player taken in the 2000 draft, a sixth-round compensatory pick by the New England Patriots, and let’s just stop there.
No need to detail what happened.
But how about another sixth-rounder, chosen with the 211st overall pick in 2003 as a special-teams standout? He was the critical piece to another championship team, too. In fact, he produced the most unforgettable play in one of the most unforgettable Super Bowls.
I’m talking about the New York Giants’ David Tyree.
“He was the greatest special-teams player I have ever seen in my life in college,” former Giants’ GM Ernie Accorsi said on a recent “Eye Test for Two” podcast on fullpressradio.com.
A wide receiver at Syracuse, Tyree didn’t make much of an impact at the position. He wasn’t particularly fast. At 6-1, 197 pounds, he didn’t have great size. His hands were no better than adequate, he saw limited action as a receiver and his resume wasn’t notable – with 75 catches and six touchdowns in four years.
But the Giants weren’t interested in him as pass catcher. Accorsi, then the GM, envisioned Tyree as an invaluable special-teams addition.
“Every time we put the tape on,” he said, “he made every tackle on every punt, he made every tackle on every kick. And we didn’t even hardly see him. He didn’t play that much as a receiver. In fact, our scouts said he drops a lot of passes in practice. And I said, ‘I don’t care. He’s not going to be catching passes.’
“So we drafted him as a special-teams player. He lived up to the billing.”
True. He was named to the 2005 Pro Bowl as a special-teams player. But while he excelled there, Tyree is not remembered as a special-teams star … not after what happened in Super Bowl XLII. Because he’s the receiver who made the greatest catch in Super Bowl history, and somebody cue the Wayback Machine.
Just over a minute remains with the Giants trailing 14-10. It’s third-and- 5 at New York’s 44 when quarterback Eli Manning drops back to throw, is corralled, somehow escapes the Patriots’ Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour and throws the ball downfield before absorbing a hit by Mike Vrabel.
That’s when David Tyree cemented his name in Super Bowl history -- outleaping New England’s Rodney Harrison to snatch the ball out of the air, pin it against his helmet and somehow hold on as he crashes to the ground for a 32-yard gain.
Otherwise known … as The Helmet Catch, aka "The Reception That Ended Perfection."
Four plays later, Manning hits Plaxico Burress with a touchdown pass that produces one of the most improbable upsets in Super Bowl history, a 17-14 defeat that kept New England from completing a 19-0 season.
But there’s a back story to that game that illustrates how unlikely Tyree's catch was. He never had more than 19 catches in any season with the Giants and wasn't supposed to play an active role on offense in that Super Bowl. In fact, as Accorsi recalled, he hoped he wouldn't.
“The day before the first Super Bowl,” he said, “I didn’t go to practice. (Then GM) Jerry Reese said to me, ‘He dropped every pass thrown to him.’ I said, ‘I hope they’re not going to put him on the field.’ OK? And he makes the greatest catch in the history of the Super Bowl.”
He also scored the Giants' first touchdown.
“You never know,” Accorsi said.