David Tyree made hundreds of thousands of dollars by pinning a football to his New York Giants helmet four years ago and holding on. He’s set for another payday two years after playing his last National Football League game.
With about 97 million Americans watching, Tyree gained instant fame on Feb. 3, 2008, making one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl history in a championship-winning drive as the Giants upset the New England Patriots 17-14.
The result was at least one sponsorship deal worth $100,000 or more, appearance and speaking fees and a book deal, according to the 32-year-old Tyree. With the Giants and Patriots back in this year’s Super Bowl, Tyree may be looking at a second wave of marketing dollars as fans and companies relive the play.
“A few months earlier we were begging a mall to put together a $2,000 appearance for him,” his agent, Michael Clouser, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Then they were all calling us, offering six-digit packages and spokesperson deals. It blew up.”
Both Clouser and Al Mercado, who handles Tyree’s marketing opportunities, declined to identify specific deals the former player signed or how much they were worth.
Tyree’s fame might have been worth mid-six-figure-dollar deals the following year, according to Peter Raskin, a marketing agent with the Legacy Agency, whose clients include the Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh and Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints.
“He’ll be sought after for personal appearances around this Super Bowl, too,” Raskin said in an interview.
This year’s title game is in Indianapolis on Feb. 5 and Tyree said he’ll be there that week taking advantage of marketing opportunities, with a bit more selectivity than four years ago.
“I wouldn’t have any of it if it wasn’t for the catch,” Tyree said on a conference call with reporters yesterday. “My opportunities were very far and few.”
Tyree had four catches during the 2007 regular season as the Giants won 10 straight road games before playing undefeated New England for the championship in Glendale, Arizona. He caught three passes that day, including a fourth-quarter touchdown. None was more memorable than his 16-second play on the final drive.
New York trailed by four points, with third-and-five on its 44-yard line and 1:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Eli Manning avoided three would-be tacklers, spinning and reversing direction before throwing the ball downfield.
Tyree leaped through the arms of New England safety Rodney Harrison and caught the ball by pinning it against the top of his own helmet, maintaining possession as Harrison dragged him to the ground for a 32-yard gain. The Giants scored on Manning’s pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining to win the title.
Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films Inc., called Tyree’s catch the greatest play in Super Bowl history.
The result was a crush of requests for Tyree’s services as a pitchman or celebrity speaker and guest. He rarely turned down the offers, he said.
“I felt like, at that time, I had to take advantage of those opportunities,” Tyree said. “I was at a point where I never had any opportunity in my life so when somebody said come do an appearance, we’ll give you 10 to 15K -- shoot, I’m there.”
With the Giants’ 9-7 regular season and postseason run to the Super Bowl this season, Tyree and his agents said the phone has been ringing nonstop with appearance offers. The benefit of a few years of maturity, he said, has made him more judicious.
“I’m honored to be part of the journey, but I don’t feel like I have to take advantage of every opportunity,” said Tyree, now more focused on his home life as a father of six.
The catch, which Tyree reluctantly re-enacted while posing for photographs last week to light the Empire State Building Giants’ blue, was the last of his NFL career.
He missed the 2008 season after knee surgery in July. He was waived in September 2009 at the end of training camp and signed in October with the Baltimore Ravens, playing 10 games, mostly on special teams. He signed a one-day contract with New York to retire as a Giant in July 2010.
Tyree is now the director of strategic partnerships for New York-based Tepidus Group, a financial-planning company with a unit focused on philanthropic endeavors such as building orphanages.
Back in Spotlight
In June he returned to the spotlight, receiving criticism after publicly opposing same-sex marriage before New York lawmakers passed a law allowing it later that month.
“I got tons of flack, but I expected that,” he said. “I knew what I was getting myself into.”
The spotlight is likely to be kinder to him over the next couple of weeks.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to be a part of the Giants’ tradition,” Tyree said. “I’m sure there’s going to be some opportunities to push some more coin and keep these six kids fed, so we’ll see how that goes, too.”