Plaxico Burress had been waiting for this moment for a long time.
It took nearly three years, but it turned out to be everything Burress hoped it would be -- and more.
After scoring his first touchdown since Nov. 9, 2008, in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s emotional 27-24 come-from-behind triumph over Dallas, Burress took a bow to the crowd before handing the ball to his four-year-old son Elijah, a son whose pictures he didn't want to see while he was incarcerated for 20 months.
It used to cause Burress pain. And now? Nothing but pure and utter jubilation.
“I had planned it,” said Burress, who finished with four catches for 72 yards and a score -- all in the second half -- in what was his first regular season NFL game since Nov. 16, 2008.
“I told my wife that when and if I [did] score a touchdown, that I was gonna give it to my son. It’s a great moment for him to see the smile on his face and be excited with my wife. What can you say? It’s just a great feeling.”
The 34-year-old Burress knows he still has a lot of work in front of him. He’s still getting back in football shape and on the same page with Mark Sanchez. But despite all that, his return to the game he loves couldn’t have gone any better.
“It just feels good to finally go out and be able to play a regular season game,” Burress said. “It was definitely a special time for my family and myself with everything we’ve been through. We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, and I’m just happy I was able to go out, make a few plays and help our team win the game.”
Burress was a non-factor for almost three quarters -- Sanchez had targeted him twice without success -- before the duo finally hooked up on an 18-yard pass with 49 seconds remaining in the third.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘Just let it come,'" Burress said. “Just be patient.”
It didn’t take long for Sanchez to find Burress again.
With 12:03 remaining in the fourth, Sanchez saw his 6-foot-5 wide receiver matched up against Mike Jenkins, all 5-foot-10 of him, on the left side of the field.
As Eli Manning had done many times before, Sanchez put the ball up the air and let Burress make a play.
Twenty-six yards of airtime later, Burress snatched the ball right before falling into the front left corner of the end zone.
Replays confirmed he’d stayed in bounds, and there it was -- touchdown.
“Mark made a great throw,” Burress said. “He just put it up. We just felt like we had a mismatch with Jenkins and we made a play.”
Burress caught two more balls for 28 yards -- including a 26-yarder over the middle -- the rest of the way.
Then the special teams unit and the defense took over.
“I think it says a lot about this team, being down 14 points going into the fourth quarter and given everything about this game that symbolizes with 9/11 and the 10-year anniversary,” Burress said. “We kind of emulate what this city’s all about: sticking together, being resilient and persevering through everything that was going on. We kind of got off to a slow start, but our defense did a great job, we got a big play on special teams and we were able to get the win.”
Burress may not have been the hero for the Jets on Sunday night. But he is one for his four-year-old son.
Elijah has his father back. Burress is back in the NFL. And the two of them finally had their moment.