When people discuss feel-good stories within the NFL they typically begin with Kurt Warner, a supermarket employee turned Super Bowl MVP. Maybe the most overlooked member of the “feel-good” club though, is David Tyree.
Born in Livingston, N.J., on Jan. 3, 1980, to Thelma Tyree, David had grown up in a broken household, with his parents separating only six months after his birth.
That proved only the beginning for David and his siblings Jessica and Tara, as they faced a seemingly insurmountable amount of turmoil in their youth.
Shortly after a move to Jamaica (where the Tyree family would be staying with his mother and her “friends”), David suffered beatings at the hands of his cohabitants, as he was accused of stealing their money.
In any attempt to defend their brother, David’s sisters were subjected to beatings as well. Eventually, they contacted their mother (who was back home on business) in an effort to escape such a horrific situation.
After being transported back to America, Tara entered the military, and David was enrolled in middle school in East Orange. After some time, David transferred to the Montclair school system where he first started to emerge as an athlete.
Despite the ray of light in the form of a better school system, David still struggled with drugs, alcohol, and even attitude. Growing up in South Orange can create quite a chip on one’s shoulder.
Athletics was David’s No. 1 escape, his No. 1 way to remove himself from the on-goings of his everyday life. By his senior year of high school, David was one of the best track runners in the state and he also received a scholarship to play receiver at Syracuse University.
At Syracuse, Tyree earned a reputation as an amazing special teams player, blocking six punts in his time at SU. The New York Giants were intrigued by this, and selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
Tyree made an immediate impact in the NFL on special teams, recording 19 tackles his rookie year, but that would prove not be the most memorable part of his rookie year, as he was arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana in the offseason.
I particularly remember reading on the back page of a local news paper that Tyree had been arrested. As a fan, I was more than disgruntled. The team had just experienced a 4-12 season, and I can remember thinking to myself “Wow, at least I used to be able to count on my favorite team off the field”.
I viewed The Giants as a team that prided itself on high character players, and now I was questioning that.
What happened next changed the course of Giants history.
David Tyree vowed to change his life, becoming a man of God and committing to the mother of his child, Leilah.
The Giants made a key decision as well, choosing to keep Tyree in spite of his recent troubles.
In 2005, Tyree went on to make the Pro Bowl on special teams, and also proved to be a reliable receiver throughout his career.
In February 2008, the story that is David Tyree reached new levels, as he made one of the most improbable catches in football history, propelling The Giants to a world championship. No words can do justice to the events which took place during the play itself.
The outline I gave of his life is a brief one, as David has accomplished much more in his amazing life.
What makes David Tyree such a hero?
In the end, David Tyree is a man who embodies traits that we all must possess in order to thrive as human beings. More importantly though, David’s life conveys the message that it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey.
Determination, resolve, passion, and dignity are all qualities that David embodied after facing such tumultuous circumstances throughout his life.
As people, each and every one of us are focused on self betterment, and in my personal journey of self betterment, my model of success is David Tyree.
This man deserves every ounce of recognition he has received, and I hope and pray that he continues to earn it.
God knows, the Giants need his leadership and skill set now more than ever.