At noon on Wednesday at the Giants’ East Rutherford training center, defensive end Osi Umenyiora announced his retirement from professional football. After spending the first 10 years of his career with New York and winning a pair of Super Bowl rings, Umenyiora joined the Atlanta Falcons for the final two seasons of his playing career.
One of the most feared pass rushers in Giants history, Umenyiora was selected in the second round of the 2003 Draft by general manager Ernie Accorsi. Current GM Jerry Reese wouldn’t take over the job until 2007, but he was the director of player personnel when Umenyiora joined the Giants.
"Osi is one of my all-time favorite Giants,” Reese said. “We’ve always had a close relationship, Osi and I. We were connected from the very beginning, because we took a lot of flak for taking him in the second round – ‘He didn’t go to the combine,’ all that kind of stuff. I really felt connected to him in that way, because we took a lot of flak about taking him in the draft in the second round.”
That risk didn’t take long to pay off, as Umenyiora exploded for 14.5 sacks during the 2005 season while helping the Giants claim an NFC East title.
“I knew he would be another guy that would pressure the passer,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “I liked his swagger, I liked the way he worked, I liked his attitude and his demeanor. Great smile, great personality, good guy to work with.”
Coughlin, who has been head coach of the Giants since 2004, has seen Umenyiora become a major contributor to two championship teams. The speed rush specialist collected 13 sacks during the 2007 title campaign and another nine during 2011. The Giants might have added another Super Bowl to their record if Umenyiora had not injured his knee and missed the entire 2008 season.
“Osi he was very, very well prepared,” said Coughlin. “He would come in on Tuesdays and study that left tackle, and he would know that guy inside-out. He would know exactly how he was going to approach him, what his plan was going to be. And he would execute. He didn’t just go out and play, he studied the guy. He was a great example for those people in the room, because he knew.”
Umenyiora collected 75 sacks during his Giants regular season career and another five-and-a-half during the playoffs. Along with his contemporaries Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck, Umenyiora will go down as one of the top defensive players in Giants history.