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Giants' NFL Title Comes with an Orange Twist

Amid all the media hoopla of Super Bowl XLII, which matched the seemingly unstoppable 18-0 New England Patriots against the underdog New York Giants, diehard Orange fans surely came across a story or two about Giants head coach Tom Coughlin ’68, G’69 and his days at Syracuse. Coughlin arrived in town from Waterloo, a couple counties away, to play for Ben Schwartzwalder’s Orange—and found himself in the backfield with Floyd Little ’67 and Larry Csonka ’68. Former teammates recalled he not only knew all the plays, but their assignments as well. They praised Coughlin, a scholar-athlete, as dedicated, disciplined, detail-oriented, and loyal. Little predicted Coughlin would guide the Giants to an upset victory. Csonka—a member of the ’72 Miami Dolphins whose record as the only undefeated Super Bowl champion was on the line—told NPR he was rooting for the Giants because of Coughlin. “He never made an error and was super intense, even in the meetings and the practices,” Csonka said.

On the biggest stage in sports—with 97.5 million TV viewers and 71,000 fans packed into University of Phoenix Stadium—Coughlin delivered. In one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history, the Giants stunned the Patriots, 17-14, with a smothering defense and a clutch offense, which included a touchdown reception and a miraculous catch by Coughlin’s fellow Orange alumnus, David Tyree ’02. For Coughlin, it was a remarkable finish to a 14-6 season that included an 0-2 start and 11 straight road victories—and a special tribute to his coaching prowess. He began his coaching career in 1969 as a graduate assistant at SU, moving up to head coach at R.I.T. a year later, and returning to Syracuse in 1974 for seven seasons as an assistant. Coughlin spent the next decade journeying among the NFL and college ranks (including a stint as head coach at Boston College), and collected a Super Bowl XXV ring as a Giants assistant. In 1994, he landed his first NFL head coaching job, with Jacksonville. Coughlin’s Jaguars became the most successful expansion team in league history, advancing to the AFC championship twice and earning Coughlin NFL Coach of the Year honors in 1996.

Coughlin took over the Giants in 2004 and led them to their third straight playoff berth this season. But unlike previous seasons, this one exceeded expectations. “We just kept getting better,” Coughlin said at a post-game press conference. “Our confidence grew and our players actually felt they could win under any circumstance.”

No doubt. Trailing 14-10, with 1:15 remaining, the Giants faced a crucial third-and-five—and pulled off one of the wildest Super Bowl plays ever. Quarterback Eli Manning escaped a sack by a mob of defenders and lofted a 32-yard pass to Tyree. The airborne Tyree, battling a defender, caught the ball above his head, pulled it tight to his helmet, and tumbled to the ground, setting up the Giants for a touchdown four plays later—and their first Super Bowl triumph in 17 years. For Tyree, a scrappy All-Pro special teams player, the spectacular grab was the catch of a lifetime, one that will rank among the greatest in Super Bowl history. And for Coughlin, the victory was the final step in a 40-year journey to the pinnacle of his profession. “The kind of game that we played—being able to come back and win it in the fourth quarter with such dramatic plays, if you will—is something that we’ll all remember forever,” he said.   

ART MONK Receives Hall of Fame Honor

SU Trustee and all-time pro football great Art Monk ’80 has always let his actions speak for him. During Super Bowl Weekend, Monk received the ultimate recognition for his play when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I wasn’t really expecting this, even though there was the possibility of it,” said the soft-spoken Monk, an eight-time finalist for induction. “I’m greatly honored and I’m very humbled to receive this honor.”

A star for the Orange, Monk was a first-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 1980 and earned all-rookie honors. During a 16-year NFL career, which included 14 seasons with the Redskins, the two-time All-Pro wide receiver nabbed a record 940 receptions—good for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns. He also set records for catches in a season (106) and most consecutive games with at least one reception (183). A three-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s, he played on three Redskins’ Super Bowl champion teams. 

While Monk methodically worked his way into the pages of NFL history, he focused his off-field efforts on helping others. In 1992, he collaborated with three Redskins teammates to co-found the Good Samaritan Foundation (GSF), which supports a variety of programs designed to prepare youth in Washington, D.C., for leadership in the community and workplace. GSF also established a community partnership with SU’s Greenberg House and the SU Alumni Club of Washington, D.C., providing academic-based special projects and opportunities for students. In 2006, Monk was instrumental in gaining recognition from the University for the “Syracuse Eight”—African American members of the 1970 football team who sat out the season after their petition for equal treatment of student-athletes, a diverse coaching staff, and other program changes was ignored.

Monk, a 1979 All-American who still holds SU’s single-game record for receptions (14), is the sixth former Orange player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Whether I deserved to have played in the NFL or deserve to even be in the Hall of Fame, I just love the game,” he said.   

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