EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.** - No one at Super Bowls XLII and XLVI had a confluence of connections like Zak DeOssie.
The Giants' two-time Pro Bowl long snapper had ties to both the Giants and the team they defeated in each of those Super Bowls, the New England Patriots. DeOssie's father, Steve, was a starting linebacker and long snapper for the Giants team that defeated the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Steve DeOssie, who hosted "The Real Post Game Show" following Patriots games on WEEI, New England's flagship station, finished his career with the Patriots in 1994-95.
"I was in the fifth grade when my dad retired, so I was old enough to be aware of the circumstances," DeOssie said. "I would tag along with him to training camp for weeks at a time, and go to games whenever I could. In retrospect I didn't have a lot of perspective on the caliber of my exposure at the time. I remember the day after the Giants won the 1990-1991 Super Bowl. I was waiting for the school bus, and casually mentioned that my dad had just won the Super Bowl. It was like 'Oh, you know, just another day at the office for the old man. Ho-hum.' Super Bowls aside, my fondest memory was arm wrestling Stephen Baker at the hotel the night before a Giants game (and I remember asking my father afterwards who the guy with the lightning earring was). All of the players called me 'Lil' Deo,' so naturally I expected that I would become a rapper. Lucky for the world, I restrict my vocal abilities to the shower."
Zak DeOssie was a ballboy in the Patriots' training camp in 2001 and 2002. He got the job in part because he is very close friend with New England Coach Bill Belichick's daughter, Amanda, whom he met at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and calls a "dear friend." The Patriots' coach also attended Andover.
While he worked as a ball boy, DeOssie grew close to several Patriots players, most notably Lonie Paxton, who was the team's long snapper in Super Bowl XLII.
The DeOssies were the 10th father-son combination to reach the Super Bowl, but the first to do so for the same team. They were, of course, the only father-son combo to win a Super Bowl with the same team.
"That's a nice little tidbit there," Zak DeOssie said.
The older DeOssie gave his son plenty of advice before the first Giants-Patriots Super Bowl in Phoenix.
"He said it was going to be a hectic two weeks," Zak said. "He said, 'Pay attention what you have to do in terms of family and friends and travel arrangements. At the same time do what you've been doing all year long in terms of the football.'"
The counsel was helpful, but playing in your first Super Bowl is like parachuting out of an airplane – all the information in the world is no substitute for actually doing it.
"It's one thing hearing it - it's another thing going through it," DeOssie said. "My head was spinning. At the same time it's fun. I soaked it all in and enjoyed every minute of it. My father was (on the famed Radio Row in the Media Center). I'd been to other Super Bowls before. I kind of knew what to expect. At the same time, it's different going through it as a player."
Steve DeOssie wears his Super Bowl ring all the time.
"You can't miss it," said Zak, who now owns two rings that dwarf his father's.
As close as he is to the Giants, past and present, DeOssie also had ties to the Patriots. Some of his favorite teenage memories are from working in New England's training camp.
"They won their first Super Bowl the first year I was there," DeOssie said. "I remember the way the vets carried themselves and watching Coach Belichick dictate everything that's going on with the team. They brought me to the Super Bowl. That was a blast and I was honored to be there. It was great to be around them. When I was in high school I couldn't truly appreciate it. But now I can look back on it and relate to it."
Although he enjoying spending time with many players, Paxton, who called DeOssie "Jack," was his favorite.
"He took me under his wing when I was a ballboy," DeOssie said. "A lot of guys I knew are still there - Troy Brown, Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel. Those guys are great. I took care of the linebackers when I was there, because my father had that connection as well."
Six years after their first summer with the Patriots, Paxton and DeOssie were snapping for opposing teams in the Super Bowl.
"As a football player when you first start playing, you always dream about the Super Bowl," DeOssie said. "I came up in a rare situation, because my father played in one. I like to think that every player dreams of playing in the Super Bowl."