EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Two years ago, Amani Toomer was the Giants' second-leading receiver, with 48 catches.
Today, he was honored the team's Alumni Man of the Year at the Giants' annual Kickoff Luncheon.
How time flies. But then, so did Toomer.
He wasn't the fastest receiver the Giants have ever had, but he was certainly the most productive. Off the field he traveled extensively, and not just for pleasure. In 2004, he spent 10 days in Morocco on a mission for Operation Smile, an organization that provides free reconstructive surgery to tens of thousands of children and young adults in more than 20 developing countries and the United States. The next year he joined former Giants quarterback Kurt Warner on a trip to the tsunami-ravaged areas of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The Amani Toomer Foundation was dedicated to increasing the awareness of, and providing resources to after-school recreation programs in the New York metropolitan area. And in 2003, he was named the Giants' recipient of the NFL Walter Payton "Man of the Year" award, given to the player on each team who displays excellence on the football field and in the community.
Toomer, who played his final game in 2008, is still running and helping others. He has joined Team Timex for the running of the 2010 ING New York City Marathon. Timex and Toomer will work together in support of New York Road Runner's Youth Program, which currently serve more than 100,000 children in hundreds of schools and community centers, to promote children's health and fitness, character development, and personal achievement in underserved communities. Toomer will be starting last, and for each runner he passes, Timex will donate $1 to New York Road Runner's Youth Programs.
"The youth program is really why I'm running the marathon," Toomer said. "It's kind of something that I've always been a part of, and I really enjoy the fact that I have a chance to give back to the community a little bit, especially the New York community that's done so much for me and my family. So I'm trying to do the little things I can to give back."
Toomer is running between eight and 11 miles a day in preparation for the marathon, which will be run through the city's five boroughs on Nov. 7.
"Timex hooked me up with a coach," Toomer said. "One of their multi-sport athletes is training me and I got a lot of the equipment that they have given me, which has actually really helped me out a lot. They gave me this watch called the Timex Ironman GPS so I can figure out how fast I go, how long I ran. It's really precise. It helps me mentally get into running because if you're just running without any goal in mind, it becomes a little bit boring. If you're always running with a goal, trying to lower your time, it makes it a lot easier for me."
Toomer is fully confident he will run the entire 26-mile, 385-yard course.
"Completing it isn't the problem," Toomer said. "I'm just wondering how fast I'm going to do it."
Toomer, who weighed between 210 and 213 pounds, is down to 203, thanks to his training.
"I'm down to my lightest weight in years," Toomer said. "After I got done playing, I went up to between 220 and 230, so I've lost probably about 20-some-odd pounds.
"When I first stopped playing, I was going in the opposite, wrong direction. So I think now I'm a little more conscious of eating right, and it's more to be healthy in general as opposed to getting in playing weight or playing shape. It's all about being comfortable in my body. I know I damaged it for 13 years, and now I'm going to try and put humpty dumpty back together again. "
Toomer joined the Giants in 1996 as a second-round draft choice from Michigan. His entire 13-year career was spent with the team (save for a brief stint in the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp last summer). Few players have left as large an imprint in the team's record book as Toomer.
He played in 190 regular season games, the fourth-highest total in Giants history. Toomer played in 127 consecutive games before a hamstring injury kept him out of the 2004 season finale vs. Dallas. He has also played in 11 postseason games, scoring two touchdowns in the Giants' victory over the Cowboys in a 2007 NFC Divisional Playoff Game and finishing with a team-high six receptions in the Super Bowl XLII triumph over New England.
Toomer holds franchise records for catches (668), receiving yards (9,497), touchdown catches (54) and 100-yard receiving games (22). He finished his career with 82 more receptions than runner-up Tiki Barber (586) and 4,063 more yards than former record-holder Frank Gifford (5,434). Toomer caught at least one pass in a Giants-record 98 consecutive games before the streak ended in the 2005 season opener vs. Arizona.
He holds the Giants' single-season record with 1,343 receiving yards in 2002. Toomer had the three highest single-season receptions total in team history until Steve Smith shattered his former mark of 82 with 107 catches last year.
Toomer also holds the Giants postseason records for reception (44), yards (608) and touchdowns (seven). No one else in Giants playoff history has more than 3 postseason touchdown catches.
In addition, Toomer is second in Giants history with 10,924 total yards (Barber is first with 17,359). His total includes 1,060 yards on punt returns, 257 yards on kickoff returns and 110 yards rushing.
When he was uniform, Toomer frequently said he didn't think about the marks, because he was focused on preparing for and playing the games. Now that he's retired, Toomer is proud to be cited numerous times in the record book.
"Once you get done playing you try to figure out where you lie and where you stack up against the rest of the people you played against in that organization," Toomer said. "For me to be on top when I left, it really meant a lot to me. The fact that Steve broke my record this year really didn't mean that much to me, because the only thing I can do is break the records that are in front of me.
Toomer's totals are particularly impressive considering a knee injury limited him to seven games as a rookie and he didn't start a game in his second or third years. After three pro seasons, he had 44 catches. Smith has 172.
"I think if I would have gotten more opportunities early on - and that probably has a lot to do with me not along with the coaching staff decisions - I think I could have done a lot more," Toomer said. "But 'could have, should have, would have.' I'm just happy with what I actually ended up doing."
And he's happy in his new retirement. Toomer still lives in New Jersey, though that might be temporary. "After this winter, come holler at me to see if I'm going to stay," he said. "Right now, the weather is good." He is involved in real estate and investment ventures, which he calls "the boring stuff."
Toomer, a journalism major at Michigan, is starting a career in broadcasting. Toomer is still involved with the Giants organization as he will team with Russ Salzberg for a live show after every Giants game this season on My9 in the metropolitan area. And this fall, he will spend his Saturdays at Big Ten football games, working for the conference's television network.
"In the back of my mind I always thought I'd do it," Toomer said. "Now that I'm out, I'm like, 'Man, I have to get back in and kind of be around it.' I was in it for 13 years and pretty much my life has been around football. For me to walk away and just step away from it is a little bit hard.
"I really am excited about it. It's kind of weird because when you're playing, it's more X's and O's, more hardcore football. But when you get into the other level, it's more 'what's the story behind it? Why is this guy performing well? Why is he not?' It's more of a drama, and it makes the game a lot more interesting to me."
His home life has similarly become more exciting. On January 4, his fiancé, Maj Moeller, gave birth to twins, Amani, Jr. and Jasmine.
"I definitely became more patient," Toomer said of becoming a father for the first time. "I definitely became more helpful around the house, and I understand that my fiancé has a big job. We both have a big job with these twins, getting them raised so they have good manners and become contributing members of society. We have a lot of work to do. And I'm helping them out a lot more."
That's true at home and in the community.