Super Bowl XLVI is serving as the backdrop for quite a homecoming week for three members of the New York Giants.
Punter Steve Weatherford was born in Crown Point and grew up in Terre Haute. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and offensive tackle James Brewer both went to high school in Indianapolis. Brewer, who attended Arlington High School, went on to play at Indiana.
Coming back to Indianapolis, with the Super Bowl setting, has become a little bit of good news/bad news for all three.
“I’m going to try to [block out the distractions],” Kiwanuka said during Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day event at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“We are here [at the Super Bowl] and focused on getting [a] win. That’s the only thing on my mind.”
Flying into Indianapolis International Airport Monday afternoon brought back a lot of memories for the former Indianapolis Cathedral standout.
“Just land [in Indianapolis]. It’s a familiar flight. I have done the flight from Newark to Indianapolis so many times that it was just like I was going home. But being here [for the Super Bowl] is fun. The city definitely did it big. I’m proud.”
Kiwanuka won a state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium while playing for Cathedral. He’d like to walk off the field Sunday night with another title under his belt.
“If we had maybe been a little bit better team [at Boston College], I could have [won a championship], done all three [levels],” he recalled. “I wasn’t the best player on my high school team and maybe I was one of the better players on my college team. Being able to be pushing and keep working and succeeding has gotten me this far.”
The last time that the Giants played New England in Super Bowl XLII, Kiwanuka was sidelined with a neck injury and couldn’t play. He's getting a second chance. And in his hometown to boot.
“It’s very special. All of the stars lined up for this one. Missing the last [Super Bowl] was definitely tough. Having the opportunity to be out here and be with the guys on the field is nothing short of amazing,” he admitted.
“I have been very fortunate. Prayer works. And I believe that I have been blessed. I had a number of things that had to go right that did. This team is in the same spot [Super Bowl], so I am just thankful that I have this opportunity. And I will just keep pushing it.”
• Seeing mom – Kiwanuka spent Monday night away form the Giants’ team hotel and with his family in Indianapolis. That’s a perk that most Super Bowl players don’t get to take advantage of.
“Being at home with my mom and everybody, it was just fun. This is something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. Got some home cooking, got to see my nieces and nephews. It was great,” he said.
“[Playing in the Super Bowl] is unbelievable and has been a great journey. To be at this point, I feel very fortunate.”
• The IU connection – While James Brewer grew up following Indianapolis on the city’s east side, basketball was and remains his first love.
In fact, Brewer is an ardent Indiana Pacers fan. That’s where he thought his future was heading before he accepted a scholarship to play football at Indiana.
When asked Tuesday if he had to recommend a place that his Giants’ teammates visit before leaving town, Brewer didn’t hesitate.
“I would say go see a Pacers game. I like who we have now [on the Indiana roster],” he voiced, admitting that he didn't start to really get serious about football as a possible profession until his sophomore season with the Hoosiers.
“We lost to Iowa at Iowa. We had been winning the whole game and they had this crazy comeback. It’s one of those things where it hurt [to lose] so bad. That’s when I realized that it was more than just a game. It really mattered a lot.”
• Questions of the day – Kiwanuka was asked if he expected Indianapolis fans to embrace the NFC Giants over home team AFC champion New England.
“I think so. They have to be, especially with the matchup that we have and having me [and Brewer] on the team,” he said. “I feel like we will be welcomed with open arms.”
Conversely, Brewer was put on the heat seat as to his thoughts on whether Peyton Manning will remain with the Colts.
“If I had to give you my guess as a fan, just from watching, if the Colts do something with [the first pick in the NFL draft] and they take a quarterback, being [Stanford’s] Andrew Luck, I think then there’s a reason for Peyton possibly leaving,” he said.
“But I don’t see Peyton going anywhere. He’s been here for forever. He’s been a great quarterback. I don’t see him going elsewhere.”