David Tyree knows the meaning of never letting go. His leaping 32-yard catch, while clutching the football against his helmet, put the New York Giants in position score four plays later and upset the New England Patriots. We caught up with Tyree, who gave us a recap of his unforgettable Super Bowl catch.
"I came into the league as a sixth-round draft pick in 2003, so some people had limited expectations of me. But I was able to compete and be successful at my position. I did really well as a special-teams player for the Giants. I was always prepared and ready whenever I was needed. When [former Giants tight end] Jeremy Shockey went down with an injury toward the end of the 2007 season, we went to more wide receiver sets. That allowed me to get more playing time down the stretch. I've always been an optimist and someone who seeks big opportunities. I only had four receptions that season, but it was important to understand my role and fulfill it. And I did.
During the game-winning drive, third down and five [with 1:15 left in the game], I knew I had to get in the line of vision and be available for my quarterback, Eli Manning. He evaded the Patriots' pass rush and from there it was kind like a Chariots of Fire moment. Everything was in slow motion. I sized up the ball and remembered going up with two hands. I knew I had it. One hand was removed as I was falling backwards. I put that hand back on the ball and secured it against my helmet. It was just instinct. I was bracing myself for a collision, but thinking, 'I'm not going to let this thing go!' At the time, I didn't know the ball was on my head. It was all so fast. I knew it was a good catch, but I didn't think it was a historic catch by any means.
One emotion doesn't describe the catch. I experienced joy and sadness. It was painful and it was superb. My mother passed away almost two months before the game. But my faith was my anchor. It was during that game, I recognized the opportunity to go forth and honor my mother. A big part of my passion for football came from her. To have that moment was deeply satisfying. That's why awe is the only word I can use to sum it all up.
That reception was also my last in the NFL. It was a glorious moment that allowed me to leave an impression on the game. Since college [my mantra has been], ‘I’m not out here to be an average player. I want to be remembered.’ And now, I am."
Check out the rest of the Top Five Plays in Super Bowl History (according to SI Kids):
1 of 5
1. Super Bowl XLII — Now That's Using Your Head!
David Tyree knows the meaning of never letting go. His leaping 32-yard catch, while clutching the football against his helmet, put the New York Giants in position score four plays later and upset the New England Patriots.
Photo: DAMIAN STROHMEYER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
2. Super Bowl XLIII — A Long, Long Run
On the last play of the first half, Pittsburgh's James Harrison took everyone's breath away — including his own. The Steelers had a 10-7 lead on Arizona, but the Cardinals had the ball at the Pittsburgh two-yard line with 18 seconds left and looked ready to take a halftime lead. Quarterback Kurt Warner tried to hit wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a slant pattern, but Harrison jumped in front of Boldin, snagged the ball, and bulldozed his way down the sideline. One hundred yards later, he collapsed in the end zone. "I've never been more emotionally drained in my life," he said. He was also drained of oxygen. Once he was back on the Steelers' bench, he received an oxygen mask to help him breathe. Harrison didn't mind the long-distance sprint, though, considering the Steelers won 27-23.
Photo: JOHN BIEVER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
3. Super Bowl XXXII — Taking the QB Out for a Spin
Denver quarterback John Elway dropped back to pass on third-and-six at the Green Bay 12-yard line in the third quarter in search of an open Broncos receiver. There were none. So, the 37-year-old Elway — ringless and past his prime — ran. And ran. And then catapulted his body over Packers safety Leroy Butler in an attempt to avoid the hit. Butler caught a piece of Elway, which sent the Hall of Famer spinning like a helicopter before landing on the four-yard line. That gave Denver a first down. Two plays later, the Broncos scored to take a 24-17 lead. They held on to win 31--24, giving Elway the first of his two rings.
Photo: WALTER IOOSS JR. FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
4. Super Bowl X — Lynn Swann A-Leapin'
He soared, juggled, and stumbled. It wasn't pretty. But that didn't matter. Pittsburgh wide receiver Lynn Swann caught the pass. With the Steelers facing third-and-six at their own 10-yard line in the second quarter, Terry Bradshaw launched a bomb downfield. Swann jumped up and got his hands on the ball, but Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mark Washington knocked it free. Swann then tipped the ball before grabbing it as he fell to the ground at midfield. It was the second high-flying catch of the game for Swann, who added a 64-yard TD in the fourth quarter. He was named MVP in the Steelers' 21-17 win.
Photo: HEINZ KLUETMEIER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
5. Super Bowl XLIV — One Happy Return
The New Orleans Saints were up 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, but the Indianapolis Colts were moving downfield behind quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts faced a third-and-five from the New Orleans' 31 when Manning found his target: wide receiver Reggie Wayne. But Saints cornerback Tracey Porter read the route and jumped in front to pick off the pass. He zoomed 74 yards to the end zone for a stunning pick-six that secured a 31-17 victory for the Saints, who won their first championship.
Photo: HEINZ KLUETMEIER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Top Five Plays in Super Bowl History
Photo: Damian Strohmeyer for Sports Illustrated