EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin and Victor Cruz were among the New York Giants who came by to talk and offer their condolences, and not long after, a thought struck Tom Teves, a lifelong fan of the team invited to Thursday's practice as a temporary escape from his unfathomable pain.
"This would be the highlight of our lives," Teves said, "if you took away July 20."
July 20, 2012.
That's the day his son died at the hands of a mass murderer in an Aurora, Colo., movie house.
Alex Teves, 24, was among the 12 shot to death by a gunman. Teves died an American hero, shot while shielding his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, from the wave of bullets fired in their direction.
"I'm not surprised he did it," Tom Teves told ESPNNewYork.com by phone. "Alex was the type of man who couldn't live with himself if he didn't do what he did. She was the love of his life. My wife, Caren, and I never once wished he hadn't done that."
The Giants' longtime chaplain, the Rev. William Dowd, arranged for Teves' parents and younger brothers, Tommy and Nick, to attend the Giants' first practice back at their training facility on Thursday, and owner John Mara provided the family with tickets to Saturday night's preseason game against the Jets.
The Teves family lived in Verona, N.J., before moving to the Phoenix area in 2001.
"But we all remained big-time Giants fans," Tom Teves said. "The Maras are one of the classiest families in sports, and what their organization did today was give us a good day at a time when we haven't had a lot of good days."
Tommy is a big Cruz fan, Nick a big Eli fan, and both got to meet their football idols on Thursday.
"He loved Justin Tuck," his father said. "And that's just the kind of player Alex would like, a guy who gets in there and mixes it up."
Tom and Caren attended Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., and they watched from afar as the Giants beat the New England Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
"I told my sons to appreciate it," Tom said, "because at their age, I wasn't watching the Giants win too many Super Bowls."
The Teves family held services for Alex in Colorado, Phoenix, and at Our Lady of the Lake in Verona, N.J., where Tom and Caren were married.
Dowd presided over the Saturday service and estimated that 99 percent of the 700 in attendance wore blue jeans and white T-shirts to honor Alex's preferred wardrobe. When Dowd asked the mourners to applaud for a life well lived, they responded with a standing ovation.
By phone Thursday night, Dowd reported that Nick was starstruck in Manning's presence around the weight room.
The team chaplain said Caren told him: "It means so much to see these boys smiling."
The Teveses have set up a fund in their son's name, the Alexander C. Teves Foundation, that provides funding and mentoring for students in need. The Teveses are scheduled to fly home on Sunday morning, and they wanted to see their Giants play once in person before returning.
"Life will never be the same for us," Tom Teves said, "because Alex isn't coming back. But we won't forget what the Giants did here. They gave us a good day when we needed one."