David Diehl got to shoot the breeze with someone from his hometown on Friday. They talked about their neighborhoods, the breakfast spot where they've enjoyed many meals and their favorite baseball team.
What made the conversation so cool for Diehl was that it was with the President of the United States.
Diehl, the Giants' 10-year offensive lineman, and Barack Obama are both from the South Side of Chicago. After Obama honored the Super Bowl XLVI champions in a White House ceremony, Diehl had an opportunity to speak to Obama as the president shook hands and chatted with the team's players and coaches.
"I grew up a little more than a mile away from where he grew up – he grew up in Hyde Park, I grew up in Gage Park," Diehl said. "It was great to be able to talk and meet him. We went to the same breakfast spot, Valois – they have an Obama special there - that I've been going to since I was a kid. It was cool to meet him and talk and meet someone else who's successful from where you grew up who's now the president. We also share the same love for the Chicago White Sox. All in all, it's a great experience but even more so, it's great to meet someone who has the same roots as you."
Not every Giant had a story as personal as Diehl's, but every one of them were thrilled to meet Obama and enjoyed the visit to the White House.
This, of course, was the Giants' second stop at the president's residence in five years. They were here on April, 30, 2008, soon after their victory over New England in Super Bowl XLII. George W. Bush was then president.
The Giants defeated the Patriots again on Feb. 3 to earn another opportunity to tour the White House and meet the president.
"It's an honor to be here at the White House," said quarterback, captain and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who spent several hours in the place because he filmed a public service message about preventing domestic violence with Vice President Joe Biden. "You get to meet a new president, which is always a tremendous honor, to meet President Obama and get to speak with him for a brief second – to shake his hand and offer him a jersey with his name and No. 44 on the back is a special memory and something we'll always remember."
"It was pretty awesome, just the experience of having the honor and privilege of meeting the president and to come to the historic White House," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "You see it on television and dream about it, but you never realize you're going to have an opportunity to do it. To realize that dream today was the culmination of a year's worth of hard work. It's a fitting end."
Before the ceremony, the Giants toured the White House and met with wounded warriors in the State Dining Room.
"It was nice seeing all the pictures of former presidents, seeing the different portraits and the families," said linebacker Michael Boley, who visited the mansion for the first time. "It was a memorable experience. Not many people can say they've been there and taken the tour of the White House."
Diehl was with the Giants when they visited the White House after the Giants won their last Super Bowl.
"You have the same excitement – but it's pretty crazy. You remember the pictures and remember what was in each room," Diehl said. "That doesn't happen too often when you're talking about the White House."
Four years ago, coach Tom Coughlin stood behind the podium with the team's owners, general manager Jerry Reese and players as Bush arrived and strode to the podium. On Friday, Coughlin met privately with Obama before walking out with him to begin the ceremony. The two men were smiling like old friends sharing an inside joke. Who knows, maybe Coughlin has eaten at Valois.
"I didn't know what to expect," Coughlin said. "In President Bush's administration, we kind of stood in one of the gardens and he came hurdling out of the office and he went down and shook hands with all of the owners. And on this one they said, 'You're coming with me and we're going to meet the president.' That's pretty cool. Of course, he's a sports fan and he goes right to it. It didn't take me long to throw a Victor Cruz comment in there, because that's his guy. It was a lot of fun. We just talked to him for a couple of minutes and walked in with him. He's a very charismatic man. I did venture this to him. I said, 'Mr. President, we take great comfort as coaches when we get a routine – don't' change the routine.' I said, 'You don't even have one. You have no routine. You don't know what's coming next.' I give him great credit."
Coughlin and Diehl weren't the only Giants who chatted with Obama. Boley had a question ready when Obama came over to shake his hand.
"My fiancé is from Chicago," Boley said. "She made me ask what his favorite pizza place in Chicago is. She loves Italian Fiesta pizza. It's really good. He said it's one of his favorites."
Obama is clearly proud of his Chicago roots. After the Giants presented him with a No. 44 jersey (he is the 44th president) defensive captain Justin Tuck told Obama he look good in blue.
"He was like, 'You're right, but I'd rather have that Chicago Bears (jersey) on me,'" Tuck said. "He's being true to it and he's not being a politician when it comes to that. That's something you have to have a lot of respect for him."
Diehl was asked what Obama thinks of the White Sox, who are in first place in the American League Central.
"We were talking that under a new manager, Robin Ventura, we're actually impressed with the way the players have reacted and responded," Diehl said. "When you have a manager that's a former player it adds instant validity. We're hoping for another run like in 2005 (when the White Sox won the World Series)."
Even the players who got little more than a handshake and a smile got a memory to last a lifetime.
"It's exciting," guard Chris Snee said. "The guys were all excited this morning. Just to say you were in the White House and shook hands with the president is something you'll be able to tell your kids and grandkids."
"It was a great day," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "It was an honor to meet the president. It was an awesome environment and I was happy to be around all my teammates. It was cool. You see the White House on T.V. all the time. I never had the opportunity to go (he skipped the 2008 trip) and it was an awesome experience."
Canty perhaps best summarized the feelings of an organization that savored a very special day and would love to return again.
"Just to be able to shake the president's hand and share a few words with him is awesome," Canty said. "It's a once in a lifetime experience – hopefully, it's not a once in a lifetime experience."