Born: January 3, 1980
David Mikel Tyree was born January 3, 1980 in Livingston to Jesse and Thelma Tyree. David’s parents divorced when he was a toddler and nine years later he left Livingston to live in a small house in Montclair with his mother and two sisters. He was a gifted all-around athlete who gravitated to football while attending Montclair High in the mid-1990s. At the same time, he was battling teen alcoholism and was smoking a lot of pot.
Among David’s classmates was actress Christina Ricci. David played receiver for the Mounties and earned letters as a sophomore, junior and senior. Montclair won the state sectional championship in 1996 during his sophomore year. As a senior, David earned recognition as a Blue Chip All-American.
David accepted a scholarship to Syracuse University in 1998. He returned punts and played on special teams as a freshman, before earning a starting job at wide receiver for the Orangemen. He caught a total of 75 passes in four varsity seasons, including 36 as a senior in 2002. David also blocked six punts during his college career.
David came back home to New Jersey after the Giants took him in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He played as a backup his rookie season, catching a grand total of 16 passes. David’s heavy drinking had continued in college, and got even worse during his first year in the NFL. He was fined $10,000 by coach Jim Fassel for missing a team meeting and got the bright idea to sell marijuana to make up for the loss. He got caught with a half-pound in his car in Ft. Lee in March of 2004.
With the help of his girlfriend (and ultimately his wife) Leihla Bell, David turned his life around. He got serious about being a parent and a football player, and it began to show. Although he still could not crack the Giants’ starting lineup, he became a force on special teams. In 2005, he was picked to play in the Pro Bowl.
David caught only four passes in 2007, but he was on the roster for the Giants’ Super Bowl match-up with the New England Patriots that January. In practice that week, he was horrendous, dropping pass after pass. When David was in the game, the Patriots paid little attention to him. They paid a price when he caught an Eli Manning pass for a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
As luck would have it, David was in the game in the last, desperate moments with the Giants trailing 14–10. There was just over a minute left and the Giants were facing a 3rd-and-5 on their own 44 yard line. Manning sent Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and David sprinting into the secondary, but was almost immediately set upon by New England’s pass rushers. David saw his quarterback in trouble and began moving toward him, trying to find open space. Manning spotted him arund the 25 yard line and threw a 40-yard bomb his way.
David out-jumped Rodney Harrison for the ball, pinning it against his helmet with his right hand and trying to secure it with his left as Harrison attempted to pry it loose. David hit the ground and held on. Four plays later, Manning hit Burress with the game-winning touchdown pass.
“The Catch” cemented David’s status as a Giants legend. Although he never did become a starter for the team, he is one of the best-known players in recent history. He may never have to pay for a meal in New Jersey again.
David missed the 2008 season due to a knee injury suffered in training camp. He played a few games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009 before deciding he would retire in 2010. Before he did, the team signed him to a one-day contract so he could officially go out as a member of Big Blue. During Super XLVI, he was invited to watch the game from the Giants’ sideline and witnessed another miracle win over the Patriots. If the Giants return to the Super Bowl, you can bet David Tyree will be there again.