Boothe was a sixth round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft and, as a rookie, started 14 games with the Raiders, who posted a league-worst 2-14 record. He was the furthest thing from a superstar, yet the Giants saw potential for him in New York.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2011. The lockout has been lifted and Joe Banner, General Manager of the rival Eagles, is putting together a so-called “Dream Team” through trades and free agency. New York has opted not to re-sign offensive line mainstays Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert, and Giants fans are growing impatient with the lack of noise their team has made in the shortened offseason.
It’s August 11—Training camp is underway and Giants GM Jerry Reese is addressing reporters gathered outside the team facility. They are frustrated and want to know why the Giants did not make more of a splash in free agency. He explains to the press what his offseason game plan was, which included the re-signing of backup offensive lineman Kevin Boothe as a top priority.
Boothe? You mean the guy who has started only seven games in the past four seasons? Why on Earth would he be a top priority? The Eagles have brought in cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins among others, and one of New York’s top priorities was re-signing a backup lineman? Surely, Reese was cracking a joke—either that or he had lost his marbles.
Needless to say, this was before the saying “In Reese We Trust” became a popular adage on Giants blogs across the Internet.
A year ago, Boothe was not a popular name on the Giants roster—you would not see many No.77 jerseys on your average Sunday in the Meadowlands. In fact, if not for Boothe’s easily recognizable shape, the average Giants fan might not have even known his name.
Boothe stands tall (6’5”), and is very heavy (320 lb.) His thick torso sits atop massive thighs, wide hips and a ballooning backside. As a matter of fact, Boothe unofficially led the league in SHR (Snaps Hitting the Rear-end) during his time at center in 2011.
While Boothe was primarily limited to a reserve role in the first half of the season, he managed to appear in every game, earning stand-in starts in Weeks 5, 6 and 8. During his career, Boothe has seen time at center, both guard positions and both tackle positions. He has even appeared as a third tight end in some run-heavy goal line sets. Reese knew back in August that Boothe’s incredible versatility is what makes him the quintessential backup offensive lineman.
Perhaps one could attribute Boothe’s adept understanding of the techniques and blocking responsibilities of each offensive line position to his Cornell education. In college, Boothe had plenty of practice across the Big Red offensive line. He was a three-time All-Ivy League selection while seeing playing time at right guard, right tackle and left tackle. Off the field, Boothe was a member of Cornell University’s Quill and Dagger senior honor society.
Boothe was not made a permanent fixture in the Giants offensive line until Week 12, when starting left tackle Will Beatty landed on injured reserve after suffering a detached retina. David Diehl slid over from left guard to replace Beatty, and Boothe filled the vacancy at guard.
Before Boothe was inserted into the lineup, the Giants rushing attack was a miserable failure, averaging a lowly 83.2 yards per game. However, in the final six weeks of the season, the offensive line seemed to harmonize with Diehl at tackle and Boothe in at guard. The league’s worst rushing attack experienced a late-season resurgence. New York had at least 100 yards rushing in four of their final six contests, maintaining an average of 99.2 yards per game during that stretch.
Boothe also started every game during the Giants playoff run. The rushing game excelled as New York’s yards per game average leaped up to 116.5 during postseason play. Against Atlanta in the Wild Card Round, the Giants had their greatest single-game rushing performance of the season with 172 yards on the ground.
In Super Bowl XLVI, Boothe paved the way for running backs Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware en route to a 114-yard performance. For most of the game, Boothe was matched up one-on-one against 325 lb nose tackle Vince Wilfork, one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game. Unfazed by the pressure, Boothe limited Wilfork, who ranked 81 on NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2012,” to three tackles and no sacks.
Moving forward, the Giants are left with only a handful of offensive players that were on both the 2007 and 2011 championship-winning squads. Aside from Diehl and right guard Chris Snee, Boothe is the only other offensive lineman on New York’s 2012 roster with two Super Bowl rings. Despite his experience and incredible performance late in the year, Boothe is not even guaranteed a starting spot next season.
If Boothe wants to return as the team’s starting left guard in 2012, he will have to fend off third-year pro Mitch Petrus in training camp this August. But the ever-humble generalist claims he will be content with whatever role he plays in the upcoming season.
Recently, John Schmeelk of Giants.com asked Boothe if being a starter matters to him. “No, it doesn’t at all,” Boothe told Schmeelk. “I would love to start—everybody wants to start. But whatever role the coaches decide, I’m fine with. As long as I’m out there helping the team improve. Ultimately, you just want to win another Super Bowl.”
It was this exact team-first mentality and desire to win that made Boothe the New York Giants “Unsung Hero” of 2011.