MIAMI- Two former Giants draft choices will suit up for Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday.
The first is obvious. Jeremy Shockey, the team's first-round selection in 2002, is now the New Orleans Saints' starting tight end.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Matt Stover was the Giants' 12th-round choice … in 1990 and will have a chance to win his third Super Bowl on Sunday.
The other? Not so obvious. That's because he's a player from another era. Indianapolis Colts kicker Matt Stover was the Giants' 12th-round choice … in 1990. That, of course, was the season that concluded with the team's victory in Super Bowl XXV. Stover has a championship ring from that season. He also earned one with the Baltimore Ravens squad that defeated the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Now he hopes to take home a ring with his third team.
Stover wore his two rings on the flight from Indianapolis to Florida and the one that he's had for 19 years elicited some funny comments from his teammates.
"Some of the guys said, 'Whoa, I was three years old during that one,'" Stover said.
Yes, Stover is old, at least in NFL terms. On Sunday, he will be 42 years and 11 days old. That will make him the oldest player in Super Bowl history, surpassing punter Jeff Feagles, who was 41 years and 333 days when the Giants defeated New England in Super Bowl XLII two seasons ago.
Stover was signed by the Colts on Oct. 14, the day the team announced Adam Vinatieri would miss four to eight weeks after having arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage in his right knee. Vinatieri, a four-time Super Bowl winner, is widely regarded as the best clutch kicker in NFL history. But on Jan. 7, Coach Jim Caldwell said Stover would kick for Indianapolis in the postseason.
"Adam and I are good friends," Stover said. "We understand it. This is about winning. It was a very difficult year for him. For me to be here and help this team win, that's what it's about."
The Colts aren't exactly going with a mystery kicker. Stover ranks fourth in the NFL history in both kicking points (2,004) and field goals (471). This season, he made all 33 of his extra point attempts and nine of 11 field goal tries. And he doesn't have to kickoff, since that duty is handled by rookie punter Pat McAfee.
"It's a blessing and a privilege to be here," Stover said. "The longer you play, the more you understand that this career is a privilege. It's not a right. It's something that you're blessed with and God willing we'll kick well on Sunday."
Stover has already had an interesting Super Bowl saga. He was a rookie on injured reserve when the Giants took him to Tampa for their 20-19 victory over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV.
"I was standing next to Phil Simms and Jon Bon Jovi on the sideline," Stover said. "I watched the whole game from the sideline. They took good care of me.
"That was a great learning year for me. Matt Bahr was the kicker. Raul Allegre got hurt and was the incumbent that Matt Bahr replaced, because I couldn't come off injured reserve after the fourth game. Consider I was a rookie watching all this going on. I was paying attention, watching these guys how they handle themselves on and off the field so I was able to go out there and compete."
On March 15, 1991, Stover signed with the Cleveland Browns as a Plan B free agent, which, like the 12th round of the draft, long ago disappeared from the NFL. The Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996, but Stover stayed with the franchise for 18 years. On Jan. 28, 2001, he kicked four extra points and two field goals in the Ravens' 34-7 victory over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Ron Dixon scored the Giants' only points on a 97-yard return of a Stover kickoff.
"What was funny was that we were supposed to have a backside safety on that," Stover said. "But he went downfield and covered the middle of the field. I was the last one back and Dixon just ran away from me."
Prior to this season, Stover and the Ravens couldn't come to a contract agreement, which led to a brief, final fling with the Giants.
He rebuffed the Jets' overtures because of his friendship with Jay Feely, another former Giants kicker. The Browns were interested in him, but only has a two-week stopgap. When Lawrence Tynes missed field goals in three consecutive games early in the season, Stover was one of the kickers they brought in for a tryout.
"The reason I went to the Giants was I was drafted by them in 1990," Stover said. "I still know a lot of those guys in the organization, believe it or not. I respected them. They were also at the time 4-0 and were a very good team. I thought, 'This may be a good opportunity.' And it's a quick train ride from Baltimore. So it was a pretty easy thing. But they stuck with Lawrence, which I thought was a good idea."
It was, since Tynes made 17 of 19 field goal attempts in the final 12 games.
The day after Stover left the Giants, he got a phone call from Indianapolis.
"I knew I could still bring value to a team," Stover said. "(Colts president) Bill Polian said I was the only kicker they were bringing in. I kicked well in the tryout and they committed to me with a contract. If Adam was going to come back, so be it, but they committed to me even through that. It was an absolute great thing for me to be here."
And now he has a chance to win a third Super Bowl ring with a third team.
"What a great opportunity that would be," Stover said. "To have an opportunity like this is truly a blessing."
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