Number 3: LB Antonio PierceCarrying on the linebacker tradition and also wearing No. 58, Antonio Pierce joined the Giants as a free agent in 2005 after spending four seasons with the Washington Redskins, the team he signed with as an undrafted rookie free agent.
During his five seasons with New York, Pierce led the team in tackles three times, was a three-year captain, a Pro Bowler in 2006, and one of the inspirational leaders of the squad that won Super Bowl XLII. The Giants made the playoffs four times and did not have a losing season in Pierce's five years in a Giants uniform.
Pierce led the Giants with 159 tackles in 2006 (when he became the first Giants linebacker to play in the Pro Bowl since Jessie Armstead in 2001), 116 in 2007 and 113 in 2008. Beyond the numbers, he was the heart and brains of the defense, an emotional, inspirational leader whose study of the next opponent enabled him to correctly position teammates before the snap and often predict which play was coming.
"A.P. came right in and took the bull by the horns from day one and was very instrumental in helping the New York Giants win a lot of games and accomplishing a lot of our goals during his time here," general manager Jerry Reese said at the time of Pierce's release following the 2009 season. A bulging disc in his neck forced the middle linebacker to miss the final seven games of 2009, which would be his final year in the NFL.
"When we brought him in here we were interested in A.P. for all of the dimensions he brought to the table – his leadership qualities, his natural charismatic ability to rally the troops, he loved football, he's a very smart football player – he took great pride in studying the tape and knowing what everybody did on defense," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "He had the ability to communicate assignments on defense as the leader in the huddle. He was a three-time elected captain here with the New York Giants. He demonstrated great leadership. He has been an outstanding football player. Think of the screen play against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and the tremendous play that he made. Had he not made that play who knows where that ball would have gone? He has worn that Giant uniform very, very proudly."