Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka had seven tackles in the Giants' 23--20 playoff loss to the Eagles. In his final rookie diary entry for SI PLAYERS he reflects on the end of the season and talks about plans for the off-season and beyond.
OUR SEASON ENDED IN A BLINK, AND THAT WAS STRANGE.
I had expected to play another week because everyone was pulling together, starting with our final regular-season game, against the Redskins [a 34--28 win]. That was kind of a playoff game for us because if we didn't win we were going home. Watching [running back] Tiki Barber, you got a sense of how much everybody had on the line. In that D.C. game he put the team on his shoulders and said, We're going to play another week. And we did. Then, suddenly, everything was over, and the next day I was digging through my locker, cleaning out my stuff.
I'M GOING TO TAKE A COUPLE OF WEEKS OFF TO RECHARGE.
Now I'm in Tampa staying with my Boston College teammate Jeremy Trueblood—he's a lineman for the Buccaneers—just hanging out enjoying the weather. After this I'm going to see my family in Indiana. My big plan for the off-season is to travel to Uganda, where the majority of my family still lives. I visited once when I was in elementary school. A major off-the-field goal for my career is to start a charitable organization to benefit Uganda.
I ALSO WANT TO GET STRONGER THIS OFF-SEASON.
I'd like to gain weight [he's 6'5", 265 pounds], but if I get twice as strong and don't gain a pound, that's fine. I'm going to train at home in Indiana and go to BC and work with the kids on the team.
I'M HAPPY THAT COACH [TOM COUGHLIN] WILL BE BACK.
He deserves it. He was in a situation in which things worked against him that were out of his control: injuries. We could have broken down and had in-house bickering. We never did. You've got to give Coach (above) credit for keeping everyone together. I'm excited that I'll play for him again—and soon! After all, our team conditioning program starts at the end of March.