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Nice Read in The USAToday on Tyree


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The Catch: Super Bowl moment small part of Tyree's journey

By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY

 

WAYNE, N.J. — He made the catch heard 'round the world, a circus snag that helped slay Goliath in the final minute of Super Bowl XLII. Yet David Tyree's suddenly famous, Biblically inspired hands were consumed with another purpose as he squeezed onto a loveseat in his family room.

 

Tyree cradled tiny Sophia while his wife, Leilah, clutched Hannah, by 15 minutes the youngest member of the family. In between, the two boys — Teyon, 6, and Josiah, 3 — squirmed restlessly. Then David snuggled close to Sophia, harboring the type of hunch that stops parents of newborns in their tracks.

 

False alarm. No need for a fresh diaper.

 

Leilah laughs with a knowing appreciation for the conscientious thought.

 

"See, he's a good dad," she says. "He's not a slacker. He helps out."

 

The twins came 2½ weeks after the New York Giants stunned the New England Patriots 17-14 and Tyree, 28, left an indelible mark on sports history.

 

"It was a heck of a February," Tyree says.

 

Sophia and Hannah further symbolize the stark changes in his life. Seven weeks before David made possibly the greatest catch in Super Bowl history, Leilah pulled him out of a team meeting and broke the news that his mother, Thelma, 59, had died from a heart attack. As much as David basks in his family and fame, he still grieves.

 

"It was a tough Mother's Day," he says. "The most difficult thing is that she was so excited about being a grandmother to the twins. They'll know about her legacy."

 

They undoubtedly also will learn about their father's story of conversion and triumph. The pitfalls included alcohol abuse and a 2004 arrest on drug charges, before Tyree became a born-again Christian and an accidental Super Bowl hero. His dramatic 32-yard catch — after Eli Manning slipped two defenders and heaved a high, desperate pass — occurred as he twisted in the air and pinned the ball against the side of his helmet.

 

All the while, all-pro headhunter Rodney Harrison frantically tried to break Tyree in half, or at the very least jar the ball loose. The grab set up Manning's 13-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.

 

"You can have that situation 10,000 more times and he'll never do it again," Harrison says. "Sometimes you can't explain what happens. But the ball was coming out."

 

History might expect such a stunner from a Hall of Fame-credentialed receiver such as Marvin Harrison or Randy Moss. But Tyree? During the 2007 regular season, the backup wide receiver caught four passes. Total.

 

"Pick a number of names," he says. "I'm the last name you're going to pick from the box. That's what makes it more special. It was … God's way of introducing me to the rest of the world."

 

His profile has soared. There were talk-show hits with Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres. An autobiography, More Than Just The Catch, is due for release in September. Dinner tabs in Manhattan vanished. One night, five fans waited outside a steakhouse to get Tyree's autograph — a new experience for a man whose NFL mark was etched with special-teams grunt work.

 

And, finally, Tyree has seen his No. 85 jersey displayed in a sporting goods store next to those of the stars.

 

"That," Leilah says, "is something he always wanted."

 

The first few days after the Super Bowl were so frantic that Tyree's heart rate spiked.

 

So he prayed for peace.

 

Divine intervention

 

Faith is huge in the Tyree home, evident just inside the front door. The crystal chandelier hanging in the foyer is constructed in the shape of a cross.

 

When Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes prepared for a third field goal try after missing on his first two attempts in the NFC title game at Green Bay, Leilah, watching from the den, broke out a bottle of holy anointing oil.

 

Then she smothered her right foot in oil. Tynes made the game-winning kick.

 

"I had faith that God was going to touch him," Leilah said of Tynes.

 

The same can be said for her connection to David, whom she met when she was a coed at Syracuse. The demons of David's fast-lane lifestyle were difficult to handle. When he broke in as a Giants rookie in 2003, still single, Leilah was back at Syracuse with Teyon — and a fractured relationship.

 

"There were moments I thought, 'Forget this,' " she said. "I didn't feel like dealing with it anymore. I thank God for his hand in it all. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that he's the man I'm supposed to be with. That's why I held on. But sometimes, it was, 'For what?' "

 

The low point came March 2, 2004, when Tyree was arrested with half a pound of marijuana in his car and charged with possession. Tyree, who grew up in nearby Montclair, N.J., and had earned a $225,000 rookie salary, schemed to sell drugs with old friends as a way to recoup money he lost to fines levied by then-Giants coach Jim Fassel for being late to meetings.

 

"My mind-set was so wrapped into the life that I was living," Tyree says. "It was like, 'Hey, I'm getting busted up on these fines. I've got the best bud. I may as well start selling it. The least I'm going to do is stop losing money, smoking my life away.' Looking back on it, it's like, 'What the heck was I thinking?' "

 

Tyree says he was scared straight as he sat in the Bergen County Jail, fearing his career was doomed. He prayed for another chance, even though at that point he was nobody's spiritual believer.

 

Leilah remembers the flow of her first phone conversation with David after he was released on bond — when she told her estranged boyfriend that she was pregnant again.

 

David: "Everything is going to be fine."

 

Leilah: "What? I don't know what kind of revelation you got, OK? But over here at Syracuse, I'm tripping right now. What do you mean it's going to be all right? I need some guarantees. I need some commitments. I need you to talk."

 

The transformation came quickly. Tyree says he hasn't touched drugs since his arrest and that, although he drank alcohol twice within two weeks of being jailed, he has been sober since. He went to Syracuse and reconnected with Leilah, and they were married in June 2004. He also joined the Bethel Church of Love and Praise in Bloomfield, N.J.

 

Drawn to the church by an aunt and accompanied by his mother, Tyree remembers sitting alone in a back pew during that first visit in 2004 and crying for 20 minutes. Then he stepped forward and turned his life over to his newfound faith.

 

"At that point, I knew I wanted change and I wasn't fearful about what anybody else thought," he says. "It was my time."

 

This was hardly a case of a prodigal son returning home. Though Tyree attended Bible studies hosted by then-linebacker Micheal Barrow during his rookie year, it contradicted reality. He says he would typically drink beer beforehand, then come home after reading scriptures and smoke marijuana.

 

The habits began early. Tyree started drinking at 14 and was allowed to smoke marijuana in his home as a teenager. He says his mother's philosophy was, "I'd rather have my children in my plain sight acting a fool rather than out on the street."

 

"It's nothing I would teach my kids today … but that was my experience," Tyree says. "I was like a captain for the devil's army. My house was a safe haven for craziness. Smoking, drinking, that's where it all went down. By the time I got to college, it got real destructive. I was fearful of getting caught with a drug test, so I left marijuana alone for the most part through college. But alcohol, that was it. Then I started having trouble with blackouts."

 

Such warnings didn't deter him after the Giants drafted him in the sixth round in 2003. Off the field, his lifestyle was steeped in alcohol, drugs and women.

 

"My rookie year," he says, "I was smoking (marijuana) once a day."

 

Tyree insists he broke such destructive habits without a drug rehabilitation program or Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

"I used to wonder what I'd be like if I wasn't smoking weed, drinking, partying every week and putting all these toxins in my body," he says. "But at the end of the day, I'd be right back doing the same thing.

 

"Obviously, you feel better about yourself when you know you're not destroying yourself. I think it's paid dividends."

 

Tyree believes his breakout Super Bowl moment was divinely provided to allow him a platform. He sees himself as an example of the impact of submitting to a holy life, hopeful that he can save others.

 

"This has given me a voice," he says. "In the past, a lot of people wouldn't listen to me."

 

Faith has been tested

 

There are a couple of small bags of greens in Tyree's freezer that are off-limits. Thelma Tyree prepared them during her last visit, for Thanksgiving, because her son couldn't get enough of them. Now they're sacred.

 

They are more precious to him than the helmet he wore in the Super Bowl, which he loaned for a museum display.

 

"She makes the best greens," he says. "How long am I going to allow those greens to be up in my freezer? They might be frozen for the rest of. … If somebody unknowingly came in and tried to defrost them, it would be, 'Don't touch them greens!' "

 

He can't imagine how he would have coped with the shock of losing his mother without his religious convictions. Thelma had turned her life over to God, too, and was attending a religious conference in Florida when she was stricken. According to a family friend, her last words were, "I'm liberated."

 

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was struck by Tyree's resilience after his mother's funeral. The coach also points to the Friday practice before the Super Bowl as defining. It was not a banner session for Tyree, who saw at least one pass carom off his helmet. Teammates were unfazed.

 

"The confidence the other guys have in him is tremendous," Coughlin says. "I remember how (veteran receiver) Amani Toomer told him it was no big deal. He said, 'Hey, you're a gamer.' "

 

How prophetic. Tyree delivered when needed the most.

 

Yet despite his Super Bowl exploits, Tyree faces new challenges. During an offseason workout, his right knee locked up, leading to arthroscopic surgery. Although Coughlin expects Tyree will be healed by training camp, he hasn't participated in minicamps.

 

"Everything happens for a reason," Tyree says. "It could have been just to slow me down. I'm not going to even try to figure it out. But as long as I try to walk in the will, all those things will take care of themselves."

 

There is also the NFL numbers game. Coughlin might carry six wide receivers again, but the competition is tighter with the third-round selection of Michigan receiver Mario Manningham.

 

"Bottom line is that every year, God makes a way for me to make an impact," Tyree says. "All I can do is go out and compete. … I guess I'm not the prototype receiver. But I'm a football player. If you ask me to do a job, I'm going to get it done."

 

Even if that means doing it the hard way.

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Although it wasn't mentioned in this story, the forward to the book is written by none other than Rodney Harrison - that Patriot's CB who tried to break up the play (and Tyree's back) in the Superbowl. Harrison apparantly went through similar ordeals as Tyree and can empathize with Tyree and what he has gone through.

 

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Here's the link to the original story, which as pictures as well as a frame-by-frame analysis of "The Catch"

The Catch Heard Round the World - David Tyree

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You know I had a feeling....the same one back in 1980....with "Noooo....I am your father" or with the Sixth Sense knowing that main character is really dead, I had a feeling that Harrison was the one who wrote the forward. Well maybe he is not such a son of a bitch afterall. :clap: Good find Bleedin and a good read. It shows a lot of people that finding your way to Christ can happen anytime and anywhere....and it is a come as you are invitation with no one rejected by the Master. :worshippy:

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I'm writing my book also about my life under a handle on a message board. I was going to have Jim Nasium do the foreword for me.

You still need one stand-out moment out of an otherwise mildly-obscure career to focus the book on though.

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