EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Monday, Shaun O'Hara made an announcement he never wanted to make: he officially retired from the NFL.
"I've been dreading this day my entire career," the long-time Giants lineman said. "Admitting to myself, as well as publicly, that my body can no longer keep up with the demands of being a professional athlete. I wasn’t the most gifted athlete, but I learned early on in my life that perseverance is more valuable than talent. I can honestly say that I squeezed every ounce of ability out of my body and I have no regrets."
You'd have to look long and far to find anyone who would argue that point.
O'Hara grew up in New Jersey, learning the game from his father and then at Hillsborough High School. He was a walk-on at Rutgers and went on to establish himself as a top lineman for the Scarlet Knights.
Undrafted, O'Hara hooked up with the Cleveland Browns and then signed with the Giants as a free agent prior to the 2004 season. In all, he played 11 years in the NFL, won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2007 and made three Pro Bowls.
"Imagine this: I experienced all of that and managed never to be arrested," he said with a laugh.
O'Hara lauded his coaches, particularly offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, a cancer survivor, and Tom Coughlin, during his retirement speech on Monday.
"My clocks will forever be five minutes fast and I know the importance of winning the turnover battle at home," he said.
He also commended Giants trainer Ronnie Barnes, “for sending me to the Hospital for Special Surgery when I developed an infection in my leg in 2004 because that is where I met a beautiful nurse that would later become my wife.”
And he talked about some of the fun he had behind closed doors with this teammates.
"I miss Eli (Manning)’s big hands and ridiculously large boogers, finding new ways to make fun of Richie (Seubert) and start a fight," O'Hara said. "I miss the back of the bus crew, the late-night plane trips after a big win and the feeling of accomplishing a goal as a team."
O'Hara hadn't played in the NFL since 2010 because the Giants cut him last summer while he was rehabbing his ankle and foot. The 35-year-old continued to work out and reportedly received interest from a number of NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins who, O'Hara says, were "kicking my tires."
Ultimately, he decided to call it a career. He will now serve as an analyst for the NFL Network.
But before he made his final decision, O'Hara consulted some former teammates, including Michael Strahan.
"Strahan still thinks he can play,” O’Hara said. “If he was given the chance he’d probably buckle it up and go out there and play Wednesday night. And you know what? So would I.”
PETRUS HAPPY FOR 'SECOND CHANCE': Offensive lineman Mitch Petrus was waived by the Giants on Saturday and re-signed on Sunday. He's grateful for the second chance.
"My agent called me and said they asked me to come back," Petrus said. "It’s a great feeling, it’s an opportunity, a second chance, they still believe in me. They found enough in me to bring me back; now, I'm going to make sure I bring my end of the bargain."