BASED ON THE GAME I SEE ON TV, I DON'T THINK I WOULD BE COMFORTABLE playing football in this era. You see guys beating their chests and looking to gain attention on camera. But the day of the NFC Championship Game, being in the Giants' locker room afterward, I felt like I could play with this team and be very comfortable. I was actually a little envious that I wasn't on the team. They were joking, laughing. They looked like they were friends, and that's how I remember my Giants teams. I also played for the Browns and the Eagles, and on those teams that wasn't the case. On the Giants, the feeling comes from the top, from the Mara and Tisch families. They promote an atmosphere of family. Once you're on the team, you're brothers, in it for a common goal.
During the 1986 season we wore teams down. Passing really wasn't our main focus, but Ron Erhardt, the offensive coordinator, liked the tight end. Because we were a running team, our play-action stuff worked really well, and that's a tight end's dream. We ran, ran, ran, ran and once in a while surprised the defense with a throw to the tight end. When it came to winning Super Bowl XXI, though, the key was keeping John Elway and that Denver offense at bay.
As for that next Super Bowl against the Bills four years later, I had my doubts as to whether we were going to win. In the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, we didn't score any touchdowns. We won with five field goals.
The moment in Super Bowl XXV that I remember most was a third-down play on the winning drive. It's one of the few times I was nervous about making a catch. I was going to run a 10-yard out. It was one-on-one coverage, and Jeff Hostetler was the quarterback. I wasn't a speedster, but I did enough to get open. He threw the ball, and I remember thinking, If I drop this, we're probably not going to get another chance. Fortunately I made the catch.
That was my last year as a Giant and the last of Tom Coughlin's three years as receivers coach. He was high-strung and very by the rules. Later, when he became Giants coach [in 2004] and I heard players complain—He makes us take our hats off, you can't do this, you can't do that—I knew where they were coming from. Over the years, though, he's mellowed. He does things the right way, he's disciplined, he commands respect. He knows what he's doing. He's a selfless leader, and that makes a great coach.
Today tight ends tend to think of themselves as receivers first and blockers second. But the Giants' tight ends—Jake Ballard, Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe—seem to be blockers first, receivers second. They're big guys; very physical. Beckum's the most athletic of them, more of a route runner. The other guys get open but look like 18-wheelers running down the field.
I would love to have caught passes from Eli Manning. When he was a first- or second-year player, I took my son, who was about 10 years old, to Giants training camp. Every day after practice my son was shooting hoops near the locker room. Three or four days in a row Eli walked by and stopped to play H-O-R-S-E with my son. Eli's just a good guy.
Now Eli has helped the Giants win their fourth Super Bowl, and that puts them among the elite NFL franchises. Not that they needed to do that—they've always been at the top. It's just a validation that their method works.