David Tyree, who made one of the greatest catches in NFL history to help propel the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLII, returned to the organization in July, 2014 as its new Director of Player Development.
Tyree, 34, replaced Charles Way, who earlier that month was named the head of the NFL's Player Engagement Department. Way, a Giants fullback from 1995-99, had headed the team's player development efforts since 2000.
"I'm overwhelmed with joy," said Tyree, who played for the Giants from 2003-08. "I guess you could say it's a second homecoming. I'm grateful to have an experience with Charles Way, seeing his growth, his maturity as a professional. It even, to some degree, has impacted my life personally as a professional. Then having this opportunity to fill those shoes, I'm just grateful for the foundation that's been laid, I'm grateful to be an example and hopefully represent this great organization in the same light and continue the great atmosphere and tradition of a wonderful organization with a premier culture. I'm just thrilled to get in here and serve these players."
Tyree spent the previous two years working in player engagement and development in the NFL office.
"We are pleased to have David back in the building as the new leader of our Player Development Department," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We interviewed four outstanding candidates to replace Charles but at the end of the day David was a perfect and natural fit."
Coach Tom Coughlin also welcomed back Tyree.
"Player engagement has become extremely important in any franchise," Coughlin said. "It is the working relationship with the players to aid them in their continuing education, their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking in the city that they happen to be playing in. It is there to help instruct them, make them aware of the issues and the problems that exist out in the community and the world to try to keep them focused on their job and not fall into trouble.
"The person in that position has to wear many, many hats. David Tyree has worked in the league office for two years, he's been involved in player devolvement and engagement. He is a local guy from Montclair, New Jersey. He was a Pro Bowl player for the New York Giants. He made one of the greatest catches in the history of the Super Bowl, maybe the greatest individual play in the history of the Super Bowl. He was educated at a great university (Coughlin, like Tyree, is a graduate of Syracuse). His ability to function on many, many levels is extremely attractive. Anyone who's ever spent time with him or heard him speak publicly knows the quality of his work. We thought he was the best guy for the job."
Re-live two of the biggest catches in New York Giants history
Tyree first joined the Giants as a sixth-round draft choice in 2003. He played in 73 regular season games and caught 54 passes. But his greatest contributions were on special teams, where he was one of the NFL's very best performers. Tyree was a 2005 Pro Bowler, a two-time NFC Special Teams Player of the Week and perhaps unrivaled in his ability to down punts close to the goal line.
All those achievements were shoved to the background by one amazing play Tyree made on the Giants' winning drive in Super Bowl XLII. With the Giants facing a third-and-five from their 44, Eli Manning escaped the fierce New England rush and threw downfield for Tyree, who somehow secured the ball against his helmet as he fell backwards, despite being mugged by safety Rodney Harrison. The play gained 32 yards and four plays later, Manning threw the winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.
Tyree is still frequently asked about the play, which is fitting, because not only was it spectacular and unforgettable, it was the last time he ever touched the ball for the Giants. He underwent knee surgery a few months later, suffered a hamstring injury when he attempted to come back and didn't play a down in 2008. The following year, a hamstring injury limited him in training camp and kept him out of the final two preseason games. He was released on Sept. 5, 2009. Tyree played in 10 games that year for the Baltimore Ravens before announcing his retirement.
The Giants' Player Engagement Department offers a wide range of programs designed to meet the needs of current and former players as well as their families. These programs are divided into three core areas: Career Transition, Player Assistance, and Training and Development.
"The foundation is really strong," Tyree said. "I have a great co-worker in Ashley Lynn (Way's associate for seven years, whose title is now Assistant Director of Player Development). "It's really continuing to take that torch, maintain it and make the players aware of the wide array of resources that are available to them at the club level as well as at the league level. The menu is robust, how do you get them to get some tasting? We're in good shape. There is no need for overhaul."
Way was also on the field at practice every day, working with the offense in general and the running backs specifically. Tyree has continued that tradition.
"I'm excited about that aspect," Tyree said. "I think my experience as a special teams player and obviously fighting for a spot, fighting for a moment as a receiver, it speaks to the majority. If I can get a few guys to see the value, it probably prolongs their career. I'm hoping to fill some measure of that aspect just as another resource."
Way was reluctant to leave the only organization he had worked for since leaving the Univeristy of Virginia. But he was energized by the challenge of moving to the league office, where he oversees the programs and services that are provided to all NFL teams and players.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to continue to advance the initiatives of the Player Engagement Department," says Way. "I am thankful to Ernie Accorsi for envisioning the importance and significance of the role I have had with the Giants and grateful for the support of John Mara, Steve Tisch, Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin in implementing and developing the programs we have instituted. We will continue to build on the foundation of NFL Player Engagement that has been established over the past 25 years."
With the Giants, Way developed and managed off-field player programs, rookie orientations and player counseling and advised the players regarding career planning, educational opportunities, and team and professional requirements. He also coordinated player activities in support of the public relations and community relations programs and helped coach the team's running backs and fullbacks. Way was also instrumental in devising new programs for the team, including leadership training, professional development and team building. He recently participated in the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace at the United Nations on the NFL's impact on local communities around the world.
"We appreciate the contributions Charles has made here with the Giants, and we know he will bring the same commitment and energy and passion to player engagement at the league level," Reese said. "Our players over the years have benefitted from the programs and initiatives Charles has implemented, and Charles' concern for their well-being and his efforts to prepare them for their lives after football is one of the reasons players feel good about this organization."
"We wish Charles well," Coughlin said. "He wanted to be included in everything, and I think the opportunity to include him as almost one of the football staff was beneficial. He knew what we were thinking about individual players, and he got to know the players from the time they came out of college into the professional game and as they developed professionally. Because he was able to build relationships with the players, they had great respect for him and what he was trying to achieve, and they knew that everything he did was in their best interest."
Way joined the Giants as a sixth-round draft choice from the University of Virginia in 1995. In five seasons, the fullback rushed for 1,356 yards, caught 118 passes and scored 14 touchdowns.
At Virginia, Way was named the team's Most Outstanding Offensive Player as a senior. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree in May 2005 from Centenary College, where he was the 2005-2006 Gates-Ferry lecturer.