Thursday, August 14, 2008

New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin Addresses UAlbany Football Team at Wednesday Practice

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin spoke to the University at Albany football team following the Great Danes’ morning practice on Wednesday, Aug. 13. Coughlin, who coached the Giants to last year’s Super Bowl championship, addressed the squad for the second consecutive year.

UAlbany will scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 16 during the 9:00 a.m. practice session to end the second week of preseason camp. The Great Danes are also coming off a championship season as the program won the 2007 Northeast Conference title. The New York Giants conclude their thirteenth summer training camp at UAlbany on Aug. 17.


I have to say this, and, of course, I am a little prejudiced about the situation. The reason (last season) was such a wonderful thing was that it was great for football. It is the All-American success story. There’s no doubt about it, and that’s the message that I would give all of you guys.”

You all had a heck of a year last year. Coach (Bob) Ford and his staff are an outstanding, outstanding staff, and Coach Ford and I have been good friends for a long time.

You don’t let anybody ever tell you that you can’t do anything. You never do. I just finished writing a book. People are going to say ‘why did you write a book, coach? What’s this book all about?’ You know what the book is for? So that my grandchildren and their grandchildren know the real story about this 2007 New York Giants world championship football team.”

The greatest thing about it is that nobody expected it. We can go all the way back and talk about the parade and why the people were the way they were. They were ecstatic and they were hanging off of buildings. Nobody worked. It was because no one expected it.

* * *

So we’re 0-2, and we’ve given up a zillion points. We go to Washington to play, and as Bob (Ford) mentioned, Mike Sullivan comes into my office. He is my receiver coach. He comes into my office and says, ‘coach, I have a friend of mine who played with me at West Point by the name of Greg Gadson, who is a Lieutenant Colonel who was in Iraq, who was wounded in Iraq, and is stationed in Washington. I was wondering if I could bring him over to say hello to us on Saturday night.’ So I said, ‘Mike, that would be a great idea. Let me know more about Lieutenant Colonel Gadson.’

So he went on to tell me the story about Greg Gadson. I got on the phone, I talked with him, and I said, ‘how about you come over and speak to our team on Saturday night?’ Now I don’t ever let anyone speak to our team, okay? It just doesn’t happen that way. Maybe once a year, you have a speaker in the offseason or something. But normally during the season, you don’t have that opportunity.

So Greg came over. Now Greg has lost both legs from above the knees. He was wounded in Iraq, and he was on the fast track in the military. He was an outstanding linebacker at West Point. Just a great human being.

So Greg spoke to our team, and he spoke about all the most important things. Remember when I had a story for you about General Ray Odierno the year before and about team first? That’s basically what Greg talked about, too. The man on your left and the man on your right, you put yourself and well being in their hands and they do the same with you.

The story that he left me with was one of vigilance. Vigilance. In our game, vigilance means preparation. Vigilance means doing everything the right way. It’s easy to say that, but not easy to do it.

He talked about being in Iraq and what, as the leader of a battalion, what he really worried about was when the soldiers came off of a detail, a night detail, and hadn’t fired their weapons. He was really concerned about that, because he was really concerned about human nature. Human nature is, ‘well, I was out last night and I didn’t have to fire my weapon. I was safe. I have to go out on detail again tonight on patrol, and I’ll be safe again. It just takes care of itself.’ Those were the kind of people that he was most worried about. Would they clean their weapon correctly?

The story directly applied to us as well. When he told that story and he finished speaking, I decided that the impact of what he said was enough. I was prepared for my meeting, but I dismissed the players.

* * *

When the coaches are talking to you about the way you win and the way you lose. Guys who are really sharp and really into it pay attention to the details, the details.

The fact that we stopped (the Redskins) on a goal-line stand provided us with the confidence and the emphasis to go ahead. We were 6-2 and won six straight. We went over to Europe to beat the Dolphins in a mud bath. That experience was a great experience.

But the other thing that came about because of our season. Just as you have young people, every year is a new year and every team is a new team. It’s just the way our game is. So when you start over, you have to integrate all kinds of new bodies and new people.

We have been given a lot of credit for our great draft class from a year ago. And how was it that when we got into the playoffs the kids all came together? Well I’ll tell you how it was. They were integrated with the team idea, and they were responsible and they were accountable because each guy in their group made each one of them feel like they were directly responsible for whether or not we were going to win or lose.

As we went down the stretch, all of these young kids, whether it’s (Ahmad) Bradshaw, or (Kevin) Boss, or Michael Johnson. Any name you want to claim of that draft class, and it may not be in the front page of the New York Times, but it was, it was. And they were key factors in our winning.

We go to Green Bay, and there’s a play. We intercept the ball; we bring it back to the middle of the field. R.W. McQuarters. It’s 24 below zero. He gets hit, and he fumbles the ball. The Green Bay players are right there to pick the ball up. Does he go down and cover the ball? No. He reaches down like he’s going to pick it up and advance it. Michael Johnson, a rookie, reaches down, swoops the ball and Domenik Hixon covers the ball up. We have the ball at midfield whereas (Brett) Favre would’ve had the ball at midfield and the end of the game could’ve changed.

In the Super Bowl, Bradshaw is going to take an exchange. He slides over to Eli (Manning) to accept the ball and he doesn’t get his elbow up high enough. The ball goes on the ground. A New England Patriot linebacker goes on the ball. Bradshaw goes down under the pile and steals the ball back. (Rodney) Harrison is standing there going like this. He’s pointing for a first down and they have the ball at the 30-yard line. The significance, I’m sure, you understand.

Those are the plays that don’t end up on the front page, but they are just as important as every play and any play that allowed us to win the world championship. We would not have won it without those two plays.

They were made by rookies. They were made by guys who understood that they could not let the other guy down.

* * *

You are at the end of your second week. General Odierno was here again the other day. He came to visit our team. He walked into this group right here and said, ‘guys, I know that at the end of the second week, you have been banging into each other and you’re tired and sore.’

It’s tough to think about the soldiers in Iraq that are performing in 125-degree temperatures with over 100 pounds of equipment on for five to six hours at a time. Sometimes when you are able to do that, and focus on other things, and realize there are other ways for which you should go ahead and evaluate your personal values, you sort of find that you don’t have a whole lot to complain about.

I’ve listened to you, and you have great enthusiasm. The coaches tell me that (preseason) camp is going very well. You guys had a heck of a year last year, and an opportunity to build on this again this year.

Just remember that as hard as it is for us right now and I’m trying to get this done with our team and we’re not there yet either, there’s always going to be team first. It’s always going to be team above self. It’s always going to be people who are willing to take the name off the back of their jersey and pay the price and sacrifice for the good of the team. Because in the long run, individuals play the game and teams win championships. Good luck to you guys.

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