Jay Alford will forever go down in New York Giants lore.
On Feb. 3, 2008, the former Penn State defensive tackle and two-time All-Big Ten selection sacked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to bring up a third-and-20 with less than a minute to go in Super Bowl XLII. The critical moment helped New York clinch its shocking 17-14 upset over the previously undefeated, history-bound Patriots.
Alford joined us for “Five Questions” to relive the sack that earned him a key to his hometown, his relationship with future Hall-of-Fame defensive end Michael Strahan and more.
Q: Crazy enough, it’s been 10 years since you had the final-drive sack of Tom Brady to help the Giants beat the Pats. Do you still hear about that play?
A: Oh, I mean, I wouldn’t say every day. But when football season comes around, it usually starts up pretty early. This being the 10-year reunion, I couldn’t stop hearing about it. It’s always a good thing because that was a huge play in a great game. So I don’t mind it.
Q: I wouldn’t mind it if I were you, either. What do you remember most fondly from that Super Bowl win? Is it the sack? Is it the David Tyree helmet catch? The celebration?
A: I wouldn’t even say it was the sack. It was me actually talking to Strahan before the play happened. That kind of sticks into my brain more than the sack does. Once the sack happened, it was just like, I didn’t even realize it was a sack. It was more so talking to Strahan, because me being a rookie and “Stray” being the vet that he was, I just didn’t want to mess up. I go to him and say, ‘Hey Stray, what do you need me to do?’ He’s like, ‘Jay, just stay inside.’ He wanted his lane to come open for the rush. ‘Jay, just stay inside.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do what you tell me to do.’ I beat my guy with an inside move, and the rest is history.
Q: What was it like learning from a guy like Strahan? He was such a leader of that team. Just being around one of the greats.
A: Ah, I mean, it’s a time I can’t even really explain. Just how much of a presence he was football-wise and just being a man, he taught me so many things on and off the field. It was just like a dream come true almost. Me coming from New Jersey and watching him play when I grew up and then him actually being my teammate, it was just, I don’t know, I can’t really explain it. It was a great time, though. Great time.
Q: A few weeks after that Super Bowl win in February 2008, you received your hometown’s key to the city in Orange, just 30 minutes from the Meadowlands. Being such a young guy through all that, not that it was a bad thing to go through, but it’s still something I’m sure was difficult to handle. What was that whirlwind like?
A: It was very surreal. You have these dreams that you want to achieve when you’re growing up, and then you see it all play out. You get drafted to your hometown team. You can’t even really put words to it. It’s just like, ‘Yeah, this is happening.’ It just moved very fast. But it was fun.
Q: With it being 10 years ago, did you guys have a reunion or anything?
A: We did at the end of September. We had a whole weekend that the Giants laid out for us. Everybody came back. They always have dinners for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, but this one was a little different because it was that whole ’07 team. Then we had dinner on Ellis Island. It was really nice. That weekend, (Justin) Tuck had all of the D-linemen over and their significant others. We were all just hanging out, and it just brought us back to that space of the locker room. It always brings you back to that space. Just hanging out with those guys, chatting, chilling, that was a great time.