EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Zak DeOssie couldn't wait for the opening kickoff to run full speed on a football field.
About 15 minutes before the start of every Giants game the previous 13 years, DeOssie would charge out of the tunnel with a swiftness and urgency normally associated with someone being chased by a herd of buffalo. He often sprinted right into the pregame entertainment then occupying the field.
"It's a lifestyle," DeOssie said. "Respect the game and respect the Giants fans. It's also a huge rush and a signal to the mind and body that you're here and absolutely nothing else matters but effort and winning."
DeOssie brought that optimal effort and intensity through 209 regular-season and postseason games as the team's long snapper and heart and soul of its special teams. His final season in 2019 was cut short by knee and wrist injuries and his career ended today when he released a statement formally announcing his retirement.
"I'm very emotional about it," DeOssie said. "I grew up at this organization and I am so grateful for all the lifelong friendships I have made over the years. Proud of what we achieved as a team over the years, proud of leaving it all out on the field. I feel lucky to have played with so many great teammates."
View photos from the career of two-time Super Bowl champion long snapper and special teams captain Zak Deossie.
DeOssie had one of the unsung great careers in Giants history. He was selected on the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft from Brown University as a linebacker, a position at which he never played a down.
"I wish I were a better athlete, then I could have played linebacker," DeOssie said. "The reality is I am not built like these NFL specimens and my body wouldn't have lasted at linebacker. I was very fortunate to figure out long snapping and have an opportunity to be a part of the team."
He snapped for punts as a rookie and then added placekicks the following season. DeOssie was reliable, consistent and durable. He snapped to punters Jeff Feagles, Matt Dodge, Steve Weatherford, Brad Wing and Riley Dixon, and for kickers Lawrence Tynes, John Carney, Josh Brown, Robbie Gould and Aldrick Rosas.
"It would take a novel to express the thoughts of love and respect I have for these guys," DeOssie said.
DeOssie's rookie season marked the debut of Tom Quinn as the Giants' special teams coach, a position he held for 11 years. One of Quinn's assistants for the first four of those seasons was Thomas McGaughey. In 2018, McGaughey became the coordinator and Quinn remained on his staff as a special teams assistant, the titles they still hold.
"Quinn and T-Mac raised me," DeOssie said. "I was the luckiest kid on the planet to have worked with them for so long. They are consummate professionals and dear friends. I thought I knew everything as a kid, and they helped me mature into a young man. Tom Quinn and I spent 13 years together and he is the best person and coach I ever had."
Fittingly, DeOssie's final season coincided with that of perhaps his closest friend on the team, Eli Manning, who announced his retirement in January. The two former players live in the same New Jersey town 30 minutes from MetLife Stadium.
"Eli is one of the most impressive human beings I will ever meet," DeOssie said.
DeOssie leaves with a long list of achievements. He played on the teams that won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. DeOssie was a Pro Bowler in 2008 and 2010. His teammates selected him to be a special teams captain in each of his last nine seasons (2011-19). DeOssie played in 199 regular-season games (plus 10 in the postseason), a total exceeded by only four players in the 95-year history of the franchise.
No, he doesn't feel badly he finished one game shy of 200.
"I have zero regrets about any of it," DeOssie said. "I played my heart out for my teammates and for the love of the best game in the world."
He was credited with 95 special teams tackles, seven in the postseason, including a critical stop of New England's Laurence Maroney on a kickoff return after the Giants took the lead late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII.
DeOssie even distinguished himself daily on the practice field, where he always worked in full uniform and a complete set of pads even when his teammates wore shells and shorts.
"Snapping without full gear is a farce," DeOssie said. "I wanted to replicate the real thing anytime I had to perform. It helped me mentally prepare for gameday."
DeOssie, 36, has been around football his entire life and was familiar with Giants lore long before joining the team. His father, Steve, was a linebacker and long snapper who played for Dallas, the Giants, the Jets and the New England Patriots from 1984-95. Steve joined the Giants in a trade with Dallas in 1989 and was a starter on the team that defeated Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV the following season.
The DeOssies are one of 13 father-son tandems to reach the Super Bowl, but the only one to earn a ring with the same franchise. And they are the only such tandem in history in which each played at least 175 regular-season games.
Both DeOssies snapped the ball for one of the most historic postseason field goals in Giants history: Steve on Matt Bahr's 42-yard game-winner on the final play of the 1990 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, and Zak on Tynes' 31-yarder in overtime in the same game on the same field 21 years and two days later.
"My dad is my best friend and we are proud of what we did in football," DeOssie said. "We are even more grateful for having the privilege to play the game at the highest level for such a long time. The memories are ours, forever."
DeOssie played his final game last Nov. 24 in Chicago, where he uncharacteristically skidded a snap on what became a missed 42-yard field goal attempt by Rosas.
"My performance was sub optimal," DeOssie said. "A long snapper's job is binary."
As he walked off the Soldier Field turf that afternoon, DeOssie knew he had played his final game. He was placed on injured reserve six days later.
"I knew then and there I was done with football," he said. "There was no other team I would want to play for and I had been to the top of the mountain, twice. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would last 13 years. Eli said it best (when he said he was "only a Giant" at his retirement news conference). I never considered continuing with another team. My home is New Jersey and my family and life are here."
DeOssie has transitioned seamlessly into his post-football life, beginning with a lighter body. "I have lost 25 pounds and it feels great to not have to eat seven meals to stay at 250 pounds," he said. DeOssie is spending more time with his wife, Kathleen, and their sons, Lukas (6) and Blake (3). Last week, he began his new career as a private wealth advisor for Goldman Sachs.
"While I was playing, my dad always reminded me to enjoy football but use it to propel yourself into another career for post-football," DeOssie said. "After many internships around Wall Street, I am extremely excited and grateful to join Goldman Sachs. I have the opportunity to join another winning team and make an impact by helping people preserve and grow their hard-earned wealth."
But football – and the Giants – will never be far from his mind or his heart.
"I will never not be connected with the Giants," DeOssie said. "I will miss everything about football. I will miss the locker room the most. An NFL locker room is an incredible place to be. Young men from all different places around the country, all different backgrounds, united in one common goal of winning. Only NFL players can truly understand this sentiment, and I would be wasting your time trying to explain it.
"At the end of the day, what I am most proud of are the memories and friendships I made over the years. I grew up in the best organization in all of professional sports. I was damn lucky. Being voted captain for nine years is a close second. I also played in the NFL longer than my dad did, which is awesome."
So was the understated yet unforgettable Giants career of Zak DeOssie.