Inside the Victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Amid the hoots and handshakes and snapshots of grown men acting giddy inside the Giants locker room, Lt. Col. Greg Gadson had a smile that wouldn't go away. His son Jaelen, 13, sat at dad's side, a soft-spoken boy with a firm handshake.

Nine months after losing his legs from a roadside bomb in Iraq, five months after he first spoke to the team a night before the game at Washington, Gadson and his son wore Super Bowl champion hats. They were part of the team, a boy and his dad, which is why this time Gadson politely declined when asked what he said when he addressed the Giants on Saturday night.

"I spoke to them as a team member,'' said Gadson, West Point Class of '89, as tough a service-academy linebacker as you'll find. "In September, when I spoke to them, I wasn't.''

You can bet he incorporated similar themes, like believing in yourself and fighting for your brothers until the end. By the time the playoffs rolled around, the Giants-Gadson pairing had almost seemed like it were dropped from the sky: both underdogs, both cherishing the concept of team, both fighting to the finish.

"We collided, didn't we?'' Lt. Col. Gadson said from his wheelchair, smiling.

Selfless always, Gadson didn't want to hog the spotlight. "You know what, though? All I did was talk. I didn't call a play. I didn't play a down. I'm forever grateful and thankful that they let me be a part of this organization and treated my family with tremendous generosity.''

Then he was asked about the Giants, whose bond reminded him a lot of the bonds he formed, at Army and in the Army.

"You find one hero,'' Lt. Col. Gadson was saying, "you find 12 heroes. Every part of this team formed, and that's what is so great about this, that's what is so sweet about this.

"The Giants were the best team. Maybe not the best collection of athletes, but the best team.'' Brandon Jacobs, one of the stars of the Giants, walked over in a white robe on the way out of the shower. He stopped in front of Gadson and shook his hand. "We did it,'' Jacobs said. "We just kept pushing.''

Players and coaches and management mingled with the media. David Tyree did one radio interview after another. "It's an unbelievable feeling,'' he said. "People are trying to get me to understand history. I'm trying to give God all the glory. That's the way it is always going to be.''

Steve Smith tightened his tie in front of his locker. He was asked what was running through his head when Eli Manning threw it up for Tyree inside of a minute left.

"All I was doing was trying to get close to the ball,'' Smith said. "I knew it might be tipped so I wanted to have a shot at getting it. When he held the ball with those strong hands, the only feeling I could compare it to was having sex with a woman.''

Twenty minutes until the buses leave, someone shouted. At another locker, defensive back R.W. McQuarters said, "I think what it came down to was – we all fought. We had to win the fourth quarter. That was our motto really all day.''

Plaxico Burress arrived from the shower and smacked Ahmad Bradshaw's hand. "Whaddya say, homeboy,'' Plax shouted. "Oh man!''

A couple offensive linemen, Kareem McKenzie and Rich Seubert, were wondering aloud if somebody could get them a copy of the new Patriots' book chronicling their run.

Then there was cornerback Sam Madison, another big-time leader, laughing it up at his locker. "There are going to be two teams popping the bottle tonight,'' he shouted. "The 2007 Giants and the '72 Dolphins.''

As usual, humble rookie GM Jerry Reese stood off to the side, enjoying every second of it but staying out of the spotlight as much as he could. After a particularly lopsided loss to Minnesota, Reese publicly stated that his quarterback, Eli Manning, played ‘skittish.' Feeling like that might have been a bit of a mistake, Reese sent his QB a message saying that all his eggs were in Manning's basket. Manning's reply: Reese could count on him. On Super Sunday in Glendale, Manning delivered on that promise.

"It's unbelievable," Reese said. "I'm really at a loss for words. It was a great team effort. I'm incredibly happy for our team and New York City. I'm sure it'll sink in."

Reese was asked where this victory ranked in Super Bowl annals. He didn't hesitate.

"In my head it ranks number one," he said proudly. "We're just so happy."

Among the countless rookies that made key contributions, tight end Kevin Boss stood out especially. His 45-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth quarter kick-started Big Blue's go-ahead TD drive.

"I'm still just trying to let it all sink in," Boss said. "I was just excited after that play because I knew we were going to score. Where do you go from here? I just feel so blessed."

The unfortunate part of Boss' success is that it came at the expense of an injured Jeremy Shockey. The Giants' perennial Pro Bowl tight end was on hand for the big game but watched from a box and stayed out of the spotlight.

"I sent him a text before the game," Boss said, "and I just told him that I was going to go out and try to play like number 80.

"He text me back, ‘you will.' "

And Shockey was right. In no way, shape or form did Boss replace Shockey; but he did as much as expected to help alleviate his loss.

Another rookie, DT Jay Alford, was grinning ear to ear as he exited the locker room. After all, his enormous sack of Tom Brady sabotaged New England's final, futile attempt to steal this one.

"I can't even explain the feeling," he said. "It's hard to take it all in. It was a big sack. It came when we needed it."

For his superb efforts Alford said he received 60 text messages and had 10 missed calls. Just imagine what Michael Strahan's Blackberry looked like after this one.

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