The Giants lost a longtime lynchpin of their offensive line following the 2013 season with the retirement David Diehl.
Diehl joined the Giants as a fifth-round draft choice in 2003 and started all 16 games as a rookie at right guard. The following year he moved to tackle following the arrival of Chris Snee, a second-round draft choice who was a standout at right guard for the next 10 seasons.
Together, Diehl and Snee played 305 regular-season games and 22 postseason games. They each own a pair of Super Bowl rings and they played in a combined five Pro Bowls (Snee was in four of them).
Diehl played the 2013 season knowing it would be his last. On Jan. 24, less than a month after the Giants played their final game, he made it official, though considered retiring after the 2012 season. A knee injury pained him throughout the year, he had put in 10 good seasons and no one was going to take away his two Super Bowl rings.
But three of the great loves of Diehl's life – the game of football, the Giants and, most of all, Addison, his now seven-year-old daughter – prompted him to play in 2013.
"She wants me to play forever," Diehl said.
That dream expired on Jan. 24 of last year when Diehl announced his retirement, ending a distinguished 11-year career spent entirely with the Giants. The decision was finalized only after Addison consented to go along with it.
"It's not very easy for my daughter to talk about me retiring and not playing football," Diehl said. "The Giants are just as much family to her as they are to me. She's been going to the games and at seven years old, she understands everything. She understands the game and the players and how important it is to play in the NFL. For her, my stepping away from something she loves as much as I do is not an easy thing."
It was also difficult for Diehl. Few players worked harder, played with more enthusiasm or were more popular among teammates. He is arguably the most accomplished fifth-round draft choice in Giants history. The 160th overall selection of the 2003 NFL Draft, Diehl missed only 12 games in 11 years. He started at four different offensive line positions, helped the Giants win Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, was selected to the 2009 Pro Bowl and personified the term "team player."
"I love football," Diehl said. "I love being in the game, I love watching film, I love doing all of that and I'm going to miss that aspect of it. But I know I'm ready to start the new and next chapter of my life. I'm ready to not only be a bigger part of my daughter's life, but I'm ready to spread my knowledge and help other people with the game and continue to do stuff throughout our community and charity work and be involved with the New York Giants in any way possible.
"I've accomplished everything I could possibly dream of as a football player. If in 2003, anyone would have said that Dave Diehl, a fifth-round draft pick out of Illinois, would win two Super Bowls, play in the Pro Bowl and win every single Giant award possible, people would have said you're crazy. I have a lot to be proud of."
Diehl started the first 120 regular-season games and seven postseason games in his career, the longest such streak by a Giant since the introduction of the 16-game schedule in 1978. The streak ended on Nov. 14, 2010 vs. Dallas because of hip and hamstring injuries Diehl suffered the previous week in Seattle.
He concluded his career with 164 regular-season games played, tying Phil Simms for 12th on the franchise's all-time list. "To be able to sit here and say I tied Phil Simms for 12th all-time on the list, I mean that's crazy," Diehl said. He started 160 of those 164 games, plus all 11 postseason games in which he played.
In the regular season, Diehl started 65 games at left tackle, 42 at left guard, 26 at right tackle, and 27 at right guard. In the postseason, Diehl has 10 starts at left tackle, and one at left guard.
"When I think of David Diehl what comes to mind is his indomitable spirit," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He got the most out of his God-given ability and that's the best way that you can judge any individual. He took the talent that he had and he used it to the extreme, to the utmost of his ability. What more can you ask of the guy? And he gave great effort. He always gave great effort, there was no doubt about that. You knew exactly what you were getting."
"He played so many different positions along the offensive line and never complained and never made an excuse," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He was a guy who practiced in training camp and was prepared to play right tackle and then all of a sudden in the middle of the season, it's, 'Hey, now you have to go play left tackle.' He just went over there and did it. He never made an excuse and he's never looked for a reason not to. He just did his job and did it well for a long time. He protected me for a long time. He's one of my great buddies and just a true warrior. A guy you wanted out there. He would play injured and he wanted to be out there for every practice, for every play in every game. Just a great teammate, a guy with that type of attitude is the kind of attitude you want all your teammates to have. He was just a true professional."
Diehl was the only Giants player whose arrival predated that of Coughlin and Manning. With his retirement and that of fellow lineman Chris Snee, the longest-tenured Giant is Manning.
"You play for 10 years, you're going to have some great relationships and make some great friends," Manning said. "Unfortunately, you're going to see some great friends retire. Obviously, you're happy for them that they have had a great career and they can end it on their own terms, like David did. It's sad to have a friend that you're used to seeing every day, to no longer have that presence in the locker room. He is missed. But I think for the other linemen and other teammates who have been fortunate to be around him, he set a great example of how to be a professional, how to go about your business and be a true competitor. He made an impact on a lot of the players on the Giants."
Diehl has long been an outsized presence on the Giants, and not just because he's 6-5 and about 300 pounds. He spent countless hours in the weight room, on the practice field, studying his opponents or dipping into the cold tub to rid his body of the aches and pains and prepare for the Sunday afternoon battles.
Vocal and enthusiastic, Diehl was always encouraging and prodding teammates and constantly instructing younger players (in 2013, he helped accelerate the development of first-round draft choice Justin Pugh). His voice was heard constantly at practice, the equipment room or wherever he happened to be. Outgoing and candid, he was a favorite of reporters, never answering a question in 25 words when 100 would suffice.
"I'm just very, very blessed and happy to have had the teammates and the guys around here and the coaches and the organization and to be able to do it for 11 years in one place - that's unheard of," Diehl said. "You never hear that any more. I'm a New York Giant through and through."
"Whatever you wanted him to do, he did," Coughlin said. "The weight room, practice, meetings, jibber and jab at guys that weren't doing what they should be doing. He was the huddle guy, he helped get things going. You always knew where he was coming from. He was a tremendous competitor and a guy you always wanted on your team, because he was so positive and so up front and he agreed with everything you did as a coach."
Although he no longer wears a uniform, Diehl remains a busy man. He transitioned smoothly from the playing field to the television booth, where he is an analyst on the FOX network's broadcasts of NFL games. Diehl prepared for many years by spending his offseasons working in internships (NFL Films, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, NFL Network and ESPN, and he attended the NFL's broadcast boot camp. Long a tireless participant in civic and charitable endeavors – he received the 2012 Wellington Mara Award at the Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York annual Vision of Hope awards dinner – Diehl remains active in the community as a representative of the Giants. As promised, he is spending more time with Addison.
But for the first time since he was a young boy, Diehl is no longer wearing shoulder pads and a helmet during football season.
"It's bittersweet," Diehl said. "I miss the camaraderie, being around the guys, being in the locker room, sharing stories of the summer. Most importantly, grinding and working for the season. That's where you start setting the groundwork after OTAs and mini-camp. Training camp is when you're getting ready for the season, for what we're here for and that's to win championships. I miss being around the guys. It's tough, physically, as an offensive lineman to play as long as I did. I don't miss the cold tubs and the physical part and all of that stuff, but I definitely miss being around here and being part of it. I was there for so long, it was such a routine and such a part of my life. It's an adjustment not being a part of it.
"Guys like Kareem (McKenzie) and Shaun (O'Hara) and Rich (Seubert) would laugh and say once they were done, 'I'm going to come with a lawn chair' and watch practice. They never come back and watch mini-camp and sit out there in the heat. They don't want to watch training camp, they don't want to see that stuff. It's definitely different for me. But I'm going to be here, I'm still going to be involved with the team in any way possible with different things in the charity work that I'm always involved in. I'm never not going to be a Giant, I'm never not going to be in this area. It's just for the first time in my career it's not as a player."
When David Diehl retired, Eli Manning not only lost a teammate and one of his closest friends, but his ride to MetLife Stadium.
In 2004 – when Manning was a rookie and Diehl was an NFL sophomore – the young quarterback rode in Diehl's car to Giants Stadium, beginning a ritual that lasted for 10 years.
"It just kind of started," Manning said. "I think my first games at times my girlfriend - now my wife (Abby) - she was coming up to the game and so I wanted to leave her a car so she could drive to the stadium. I got to the hotel and I said that I needed a ride to the stadium on game day. Diehl's the kind of guy who has been a friend, has been one of my close friends from the get-go, so I asked him for a ride and we just kind of kept the tradition going. Then we did it every week and it was kind of known that that was the plan."
The two players quickly hit it off and Manning soon began to appreciate Diehl's relentless enthusiasm.
"He's always upbeat," Manning said. "You ask him how the guy who he's facing that week is and he had the answer – 'Oh, this is what he likes to do, so I'm going to do this.' He had thought about it all and always had positive thinking on the outlook of games and life. Always excited about whatever was happening in his life, and enthusiastic. The attitude is contagious. If you see someone who is fired up and smiling and feeling good about things, that makes it a little easier for you to smile and kind of look forward to whatever's going on in your life."
Diehl discussed numerous subjects when he announced his retirement. Here's a sampling:
*On when he knew he decided to retire:
"I kind of had the feeling that this would probably be the last one going into this season," Diehl said. "Going into my 11th season, I wanted to make sure that I came back off of my (2012) knee injury to play the way I was capable of. But most importantly just to enjoy playing the game, enjoy being here.
"We've accomplished a lot around here, winning in 2011. Then I got hurt in 2012 and coming off of that, I wanted to rehab, I wanted to come back strong and I wanted to contribute to this football team."
*On what he's most proud of from his 11-year career:
"Obviously you can sit here and say the two Super Bowl victories. I think starting as many games as I did (160 in the regular season) and playing as many games as I did (164). To be able to sit here and say I tied Phil Simms for 12th all-time on the (franchise's games-played) list, I mean that's crazy. Like I've always said, I was a fifth-round draft pick, I was no silver spoon. I'm a guy who is accountable, a dependable guy. I believe that if you work hard enough and set your mind to something you can accomplish anything you want so for me, granted playing in the Pro Bowl and winning the Super Bowls and all of those things.
"But for me, I like the start streak (the first 120 regular-season games of his career). I'm not an individual guy, so to be able to do that and play so many games for this organization and to fight through injuries and do everything, that's something that I'm most proud of, because as a football player it's all about accountability. I know over the last 11 years that everybody in this locker room, whether it came from the organization, the coaches, my teammates, I know that every one of them knows how much I love this game, how much I love this organization and most importantly, how much I love my teammates and being here. I would do anything for them. That's something that's definitely something to be very, very proud of."
*On the bond he had with former linemates Kareem McKenzie, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee. That group started 38 consecutive regular-season games together from 2007-09.
"That was an unbelievable time," Diehl said. "It was a very, very special time. Playing with those guys and accomplishing what we accomplished as a group, we're brothers. Still to this day you get us together and it's like we never left. Guys are laughing, we're having fun, but that's just a testament to our group. In 2003 and '04 they were calling this the worst offensive line in the NFL. So for us, it was a mindset and a determination. Most importantly it was the blue-collar work ethic that we're going to turn things around and make things different around here
"Those times you never forget. To be able to block for two 1,000-yard rushers in one season (Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward in 2008), I think that's only been done five times in the history of the NFL. I can't say enough about those guys and (offensive line) coach (Pat) Flaherty. We've just had a very, very special group of guys in the offensive line group. Those are memories that I'll have forever of playing with them, fighting and accomplishing so much together."
*On playing for the Giants for 11 seasons:
"To be drafted here and to be able to close out of career here over a decade later and to accomplish, not only what I've accomplished but more importantly to accomplish what we've accomplished as a football team. I honestly can look back and hold my head high and walk away from this game knowing that I've left everything that I've got. Physically, mentally, everything that I've got I've left on the football field. Each and every day physically I've given everything I've got. This was the team that believed in me, this was the team that gave me my opportunity. To have the special relationship that I've had with Wellington Mara after my dad passed away (in 2003), I wouldn't want to be any place else. I could never see myself wearing a different helmet or uniform. I'm a New York Giant. I've been so fortunate and happy and blessed to be one."
Giants.com takes a look at the career of longtime Giant David Diehl.