- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mathias Kiwanuka has probably gotten a ton of ticket requests, seeing as how Super Bowl XLVI is being played in his hometown.
As for Devin Thomas, he only needs one.
“As long as my dad is there, that’s all that matters,” the Giants special teams ace said Thursday. “Everybody else can celebrate after we handle our business.”
Thomas has a special bond with his father. His father was the one who introduced him to the game of football, and the one who has been with him through his best times and his worst.
“He’s the one who I need to be there supporting me,” Thomas said.
Thomas called his father immediately following the conclusion of the NFC Championship game.
“I told him, ‘Pops, we’re going to the Super Bowl!’” said Thomas, who had two crucial fumble recoveries in the Giants’ 20-17 overtime victory over the 49ers. It’s funny, because the story is, the last Super Bowl I went to was the Steelers versus Arizona. Me and my dad went together. And I told him, ‘Pops, we can’t go to Super Bowls anymore unless I’m in it.’”
“I was in the NFL already, and I’m sitting there watching guys play at that magnitude, and I’m like, I can’t come back and watch this, I gotta be a part of this.”
So this must be pretty surreal then, huh?
“It’s a dream come true,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ 2011 season has been much like his career: up and down. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old lost the starting kick returner role due to fumbling issues and was relegated to punt and kick coverage. On Dec. 18, he had to be carted off the field after he was nearly paralyzed while making at tackle on the final play of the first half of the Giants’ 23-3 loss to Thomas’ former team, the Redskins.
But on Sunday, Thomas redeemed himself. He scooped up a ball that caromed off Kyle Williams’ knee in the third quarter, then pounced on Williams’ second fumble in overtime after Jacquain Williams stripped him. Five plays later, Lawrence Tynes kicked the Giants to Indianapolis.
“It’s very gratifying. It was all about perseverance, working hard and just grinding,” said Thomas, who was supposed to be a big play wide receiver in Washington, but fell into the doghouse and was eventually fired. “So many things happened this year, and I just kept pushing and trying to play my role as best as possible and for a huge moment like that, it took a lot out of me and made me fee great about the situation. now we’re in the Super Bowl.”
• Thomas on his two recoveries: “I couldn’t believe that [Kyle] was getting that close, I was waiting to see if he was going to pick it up, and then it grazed his knee, so I knew I could recover it. And the second one I couldn’t believe it, Jacquain got the fumble, and I was like man I gotta get this ball, and once I got it no one else could take it, and that sealed that situation.”
• Thomas dispelled the notion that the Giants were going after Williams with the intent to injure given his concussion history: “It’s more so just understanding personnel. You wanna find every strength and weakness that you can. And the whole concept of him having concussions is just the fact that he’s been hit a lot, and sometimes, like I’ve had a concussion, so when you get rattled like that, sometimes you’re judgment changes. Sometimes you worry about getting hit instead of holding onto the ball and what not on top of that he’s the backup returner. Huge role. Huge game. Just things like that that you key on. And making a legal hit. No cheap shots. But let’s see if we can rattle him and get a turnover. You’re just going after somebody knowing that you can try to do something that could change the game.”