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Friday, July 30, 2010
Tyree, Hilliard retire as Giants

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

David Tyree
David Tyree's spectacular catch in Super Bowl XLII kept the game-winning drive alive.

The New York Giants signed Super Bowl XLII hero David Tyree and Ike Hilliard to one-day contracts so both wide receivers could retire with the team on Friday.

The two wideouts took different paths to the Giants. Hilliard was the seventh overall pick in 1997. Tyree was a 2003 sixth-round pick who made a living on special teams.

Hilliard may be remembered more for the injuries he suffered throughout his career. Tyree's legacy will be linked to one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history.

On Feb. 3, 2008, Tyree snagged a desperation heave from Eli Manning and secured the ball with the aid of his helmet while Rodney Harrison was draped all over him. The miraculous 32-yard catch helped set up the winning touchdown against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

That reception proved to be Tyree's last catch. A knee injury cost him the entire 2008 season. Tyree, 30, played for the Ravens last season largely on special teams. He had hoped to catch on with another team but decided to retire and focus on his family, businesses and ministry.

Tyree specialized in downing punts inside the 5-yard line. He made the Pro Bowl for his special teams talents in 2005 and finishes with 54 receptions for 650 yards, four touchdowns and one unforgettable Super Bowl catch.

"I have never sat down and watched the game in its entirety," Tyree admitted about the Giants' Super Bowl upset over the Patriots. "I know it means a lot more to me now. I don't think I have the full understanding of the depth of what occurred. With my entire career, that is obviously the one signature move I will be remembered for as a football player. But I was definitely satisfied with the complete body of work as well."

Ike Hilliard
Ike Hilliard made 368 receptions during his Giants career.

Tyree, who was born in Livingston, N.J., and played at Montclair High School, not far from where the Giants practice and play.

"I never really saw my career even happening to begin with, and once it did it was kind of a fairy-tale ride for a kid out of Essex County," he said.

"The story couldn't have been written any better. I was honored from the start of things, even in the most shakiest of moments, to have played my career with a class organization and it was only fitting that I ended there."

Hilliard, 34, returned to the Giants after playing the last four seasons of his career with Tampa Bay. His final season came in 2008, the same year he suffered a vicious hit from Seattle's Leroy Hill that resulted in a concussion. Hilliard admitted he still has nerve damage from the blow.

Injuries plagued Hilliard from the start of his career. He said he had eight surgeries during his 12-year career, the first which was a neck fusion operation during his rookie season.

Hilliard still played in 98 games for the Giants between 1997-2004 and finished fifth in franchise history in receptions with 368 for 4,630 yards and 27 touchdowns. His best season came in 1999 when he had 72 receptions for 996 yards. He caught eight touchdowns the following year to help the Giants go to the Super Bowl.

His most memorable touchdown was likely the 46-yarder he caught that sparked the Giants' 41-0 rout over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 14, 2001. Hilliard had 10 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns in that game.

"[From] being injured my rookie season to being fortunate enough to play in the Super Bowl -- even though we couldn't close the deal -- to even how it ended, as far as just parting ways ... it will always stick with me," said Hilliard, who finishes his career with 546 receptions for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns. "They are all the moments I enjoy and cherish and I will until the day I die."

Hilliard admits that his body still feels burns and stings from all the injuries he has suffered.

"I feel OK," said Hilliard, who is now a wide receivers coach for the UFL's Florida Tuskers. "I think I had eight surgeries in my 12-year career, which was part of the reason I'm not playing today. Obviously after that hit from Leroy in '08 in Tampa, I still have some nerve damage from that hit. It's all partly my fault because I didn't fully prepare myself bodily-wise, but I enjoyed myself."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.