Tom Coughlin fired them up, and Chris Canty and Jeff Hostetler brought them home. That was the order of business at the team's annual Kickoff Luncheon today in MetLife Stadium.
Canty and Hostetler were named Man of the Year and Alumni Man of the Year, respectively, for their work in the community. Both men have long histories of helping others and encouraged everyone in the large crowd to be generous with their time and their hearts.
Master of Ceremonies Bob Papa, the voice of the Giants, introduced approximately 25 former Giants who attended the event, including Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis Anderson, Joe Morris and Stephen Baker, who caught a touchdown pass from Hostetler in the Giants' victory over Buffalo 22 seasons ago. Also in attendance was Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff and a proud Giants fan.
Each of the current players and coaches was acknowledged before Papa told those in the crowd they were there to celebrate the Giants' victory in Super Bowl XLVI and to look ahead to the 2012 season.
Fittingly, it was Coughlin who linked the two. He said the Giants had two themes during their championship season: "Finish" and "All In."
"What we challenged our football team with at the beginning of training camp this year was, 'What are we fellas?'" Coughlin said. "Are we the 7-7 team or are we the 6-0 team, the team that was successful right down the stretch that no one gave a chance to, that got into the playoffs by winning late in the season and the tremendous part about that was the way in which the fans received us.
"Build The Bridge became the theme this year in training camp. We had to build a bridge from the 6-0 qualities that appeared, a couple of which were we gave up 14 points a game. You're going to win a lot of games when you only give up 14 points a game. We had one turnover in the playoffs. Special Teams had incredible turnovers in the San Francisco game to allow us to win, so it was in harmony that we did play. So Build the Bridge has become the new theme. Now we're not going to leave the 'All In.' We're not going to leave 'Finish.' When I do talk about 'All In,' I am talking about the fans and we are extremely excited. We are excited to play our final preseason game tomorrow evening right here and then here we go. The Dallas Cowboys are coming to town. The place will be rocking and rolling. It will be all blue. Team first, team last, team always it will be and we're really excited about it."
Canty was honored for the work he does through his Chris Canty Foundation and with the Giants' community relations department. A video was shown with Canty distributing toys dressed as Santa Claus, reading to children, helping at a soup kitchen and instructing youngsters at one of his football camps. Canty does all that and more, working so tirelessly one wonders how he finds the time to play football.
Canty thanked his parents, Joseph and the Reverend Shirley Canty, the Mara and Tisch families and his coaches and teammates – with a special shout-out to the defensive line – before explaining why he dedicates so much of his life to helping others.
"To have an opportunity to join the legacy that is the New York Football Giants is truly a blessing," Canty said. "That blessing comes with tremendous responsibility, a responsibility to be in service to those around me. Not just the coaches and my teammates and the people over in the Timex (Performance Center, the Giants' headquarters), but also to my community, a community that's given us so much. So it's only right and it's only fitting that we take the opportunity to give back.
"(People) ask me all the time why I do the things that I do. There's nothing quite like it. Being able to see the smile on a kid's face when you come into the school and you have an opportunity to read to them or just to be able to provide the spark that inspires them to dream and achieve - there's nothing like it. It's an awesome feeling and you don't have to run a fast 40 time or you don't have to bench 225 thirty times to be able to experience that feeling. Everybody has something to give, whether it is your resources, a specific skill or talent or simply your time. Everybody has something to give and we all can make our community a better place. We all can have a positive impact in the lives of others."
Canty then demonstrated he's learned a few lessons from Coughlin, who is a master at motivating his players.
"Coach Coughlin does this thing in our team meetings in the morning; he'll leave us with an inspirational quote or just a few words of wisdom, mostly from John Wooden (the late, great UCLA basketball coach). I felt it would be fitting this afternoon to close my remarks with a Wooden. Coach Wooden said that you can never live a perfect day until you do something for someone that will never be able to repay you. Thank you all. God Bless. Go Giants."
John Mara, the Giants' president and chief executive officers, then introduced Hostetler, who emerged from obscurity as a career backup to lead the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XXV. His Hoss Foundation, based in Morgantown, W.Va., is dedicated to impacting the lives of people who are going through either a traumatic illness or financial crisis.
"Jeff Hostetler in so many ways represents everything we want a Giants player to be," Mara said. "He played sparingly until Phil Simms broke his foot on December 15 in our game against Buffalo. Jeff then came in… I can still remember all the media experts out there saying that our season was over, there was no way that we could advance to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback like that. Well, Jeff didn't believe that and he took over as the starting quarterback, led us to victories over the Cardinals and the Patriots at the end of the season and then took us right through the playoffs all the way to the NFC Championship game where we beat the 49ers.
"Jeff and his wife Vicky and their sons all put in countless hours working for this foundation, which supports the Ronald McDonald House and the children's section of the West Virginia University Hospital. Jeff Hostetler was a terrific player and a Super Bowl Champion during his 14-year career, but he made the biggest impact with what he has done off the field for helping so many people in so many different ways; the Giants are very proud to present Jeff Hostetler with our 2012 Alumni Man of the Year Award."
Hostetler spoke of how honored he is to be a member of the Giants' fraternity and how special it was to play for the team that drafted him out of West Virginia University in 1984. He implored the current players to take time to enjoy what they now have. Hostetler then emulated Canty and spoke of the importance of doing good work away from the field.
"The word 'impact' was thrown around a couple of different times," Hostetler said. "'Impact' is a huge word for me. Not only because when you think of football, you think of impact. Early in my career, I didn't have an opportunity to play. We didn't have free agency, so I was sitting around and trying any way I could to get out on the field. I blocked a punt, ran the ball, caught a pass before I ever threw one in the NFL. Six weeks before that 1990 Super Bowl win, I can remember coming home and sitting down at the dinner table with my wife and telling her, 'That's it. At the end of this season, I'm done. I've had 6½ years of frustration.' I was in the prime of my life, but I hadn't had an opportunity and I just have had it.
"But I'm a firm believer that God has a plan for each one of us and that wasn't God's plan for me. I had prepared, I had worked, I had struggled, I was disciplined, I was ready to go if the opportunity didn't present itself and then the week after I said I was done, Phil went down and I had the opportunity. Six weeks later, I'm standing on a podium with two of my boys and a third on the way just having won the Super Bowl. It's one of those things where you never know what's right around the corner."
Hostetler told the rapt audience that he had grown up on a farm with 18,000 chickens and had all kinds of chores to do before school and after practice of whatever sport was in season.
"It was one of those things where you just learned looking at my dad, you can never quit," Hostetler said. "When something broke down or something wasn't working right, you could never quit. I continued to work, work, work and I finally got to the point where I said, 'Lord, what am I here for?' And he told me you can't quit, because you just don't know what's around the corner. What I want to get back to is impact. You know what impact means. Impact means to make a mark. To leave an impression. To strike forcefully. In football, you see impact players. I see these defensive linemen and they had plenty of impact on me. … I think as we go on, we each can have an impact on someone. You can have a negative impact. You can you have a positive impact. I think I'm a firm believer that we can each have a positive impact on people. It could be as little as opening a door for someone or patting somebody on the back. When you see somebody down, put your arm around them and say, 'Hey, it's going to be alright.' A word of encouragement here or there. Giving of yourself. Giving of your time. Giving of your finances. We each can have an impact on someone in our lives and that's my challenge to you all. To be an impact player. To leave an impression. To make a mark on someone's life."
In perfect symmetry, Hostetler closed with a directive to the 2012 Giants: Build the bridge.
"I'm honored to here," he said. "I thank you so much for your time. I wish you guys this year, the New York Giants, a great year. Bring back another one and stay healthy."
Sounds like a plan Coughlin would approve.
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