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Giants welcome lifelong fan for special visit


The first thing Wellington Mara taught his son, John, about running a sports franchise was the importance of communicating with fans. When someone takes the time to reach out, as the late Hall of Fame owner would say, you ought to give the courtesy of responding.

This applies during the good and bad times.

Maryann Villa has been a loyal Giants fan long enough to see both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. The 85-year-old from Nutley, N.J. also isn't one to suffer in silence. So, Villa had something to say as the 2021 season drew to a close.

The Giants heard her.

Then they welcomed her. Along with her son and grandson, Maryann was a special guest last week at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The three generations of Villa fans toured team headquarters and met with general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll. But first, they were surprised by someone they watched play hundreds of times in person at home and on the road.

"I hope to see you back in the stands next year," said Eli Manning, as the two-time Super Bowl MVP emerged from the breakroom adjacent to the executive boardroom, where everyone was gathered. "We can't lose you. We've got to have you in there."

The Villa Family has been in the stands for every game since the Yankee Stadium days.

The Villa Family has been in the stands for every game since the Yankee Stadium days.

"We don't do this for everybody," said Mara, the team's president and chief executive officer. "It's important to us because we do appreciate your many years of support. We really do. It's something we take very personal here, and we take a lot of pride in having fans who have been with us for a long time. We don't like to lose them."

The Villa family has also been frequent contributors to Tom Coughlin's Jay Fund Foundation and its annual fundraising gala, where she once took a photo with Manning. A few years and one jersey retirement later, Manning got wind of it and had an idea.

So, with Manning seated and Villa standing just over his right shoulder, the longtime Season Ticket Member and Ring of Honor inductee reenacted the picture.

"Very surprised, very surprised," Villa said. "But it was a nice surprise. They were glad that I came. … It was great coming and meeting everyone and that they care about what I said. I've been to every game. The last game of last season was the first game I ever missed. But I will be back."

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