Tis’ the season is the popular saying this time of year; the season for giving. Christmas in New York City is truly a magical time. Perhaps I am a little biased, being a native New Yorker but if you are looking for that Yule Tide feeling, you wont have to look very far in the Big Apple. This past Thursday night was one of many nights, I am sure, that New York Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora was feeling the Christmas spirit.
Perry Ellis sponsored Lord & Taylor’s, “Guys Night Out” last night. To say it was a huge success would be an understatement. On hand to meet and greet the fans were New York Jets LB – Bart Scott, the New York Jets Flight Crew Cheerleaders and our very own Osi Umenyiora. The Lord & Taylor flagship store was brimming with holiday shoppers and Giants fans alike. While most in attendance of the “Guys Night Out” couldn’t wait to meet their favorite New York Giant, some just wanted to play video games.
Perry Ellis and Lord & Taylor spared no expense! There were plenty of giveaways, food and beverages on hand to quench the thirst and tease the appetite of even the most discerning gourmandizer. ESPN was on hand to cover the event, which included a live broadcast from Michael Kay for his radio program on 1050 AM. Best of all, and keeping to the warmth of the holiday season, these kindhearted sports figures were helping out one of their favorite causes, Athletes For Charities.
Athletes For Charities is an organization that Osi Umenyiora has been active in for years now. Part of what the Athletes For Charities does is to “improve the collective lives of disadvantaged youth, advance the common good and support the nonprofit sectors that benefit foster care youth.” And youth they brought!
In spite of the night’s melee, Osi Umenyiora took time to speak with me and give me the following interview.
Q: How did practice go? I know you were limited yesterday.
A: It was cool. I went to go practice yesterday and today actually.
Q: Were you limited though?
A: There really is no such thing as limited. Even though they say limited, as soon as you step on the practice field you’re going to practice. So that’s what we did.
Q: How do you feel about going into the game this Sunday? There are a lot of conflicting reports saying Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and David Diehl will all be back. Do you have any word or confirmation?
A: I don’t know nothing about that man. Hopefully they’ll be able to play. But we just have to worry about getting them healthy for their future.
Q: There’s a tremendous family feel to this team. I know that you guys prided yourself on that in 2007. How do you feel about the closeness and the cohesiveness of the team this year as opposed to 2007?
A: I don’t really compare this team to 2007. It’s a brand new team. We’re close. We like each other. We like being around each other. We have fun playing with each other. That’s pretty much all I can say about that.
Q: The dynamic between Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw this year seems to be more prevalent than in years past. They seem to be…
A: Those guys are friends man, first and foremost. They’re friends before any of this football stuff. They love each other. Whatever is happening between them they handle it between them. But they’re good friends and they act like it.
Q: It’s been really great to watch, watching their locker room interviews. How do you feel about the game Sunday? Do you have more of a game plan towards one quarterback over the other, not sure who will start?
A: No. We’re preparing for both of them. It’s a big game for us. It’s a game that we need to win to stay in the playoff hunt. We’re going to go out there and give it everything we have.
Q: Who do you think poses the bigger threat?
A: They both pose a threat in their own way. Obviously, Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and then Jackson is a young, up and coming quarterback. He has a strong arm. He’s mobile. So, they both present threats.
Q: As far as the biggest threat on the team, offensively, do you consider it to be more of a passing attack or the running game of Adrian Peterson?
A: Obviously, I think it’s the running game. Over the last two games they’ve run the ball at a 60% rate. So their running a lot more than their throwing and then their not really taking too many deep shots. So, Adrian Peterson is the one who will really peel you. That’s the guy who we really need to focus on.
Q: And you guys will have no problem stopping them right?
A: A lot of people have tried. Very few have succeeded. We’re going to try our best to do a good job of limiting what he is able to do. You’re not going to be able to shut him down completely though.
Q: Now the defense, you guys have been dominant all year long. But it seems like, you’re in December and the last couple of weeks you have been kicking it up, and escalating it a couple of notches. You guys were on fire last weekend. You basically shut down Santana Moss to one catch. It was an amazing game. Are you practicing harder? What do you think is the change? You guys seem to just be getting better as the year goes on, which is astounding.
A: Right. We practice hard. We have been practicing hard the whole year. I think right now is when teams who are going to make that playoff push really need to start getting going and pushing. I think we have the veterans and the team leadership to know what’s at stake right now. We just have to go out and continue to play like we have been playing.
Q: I know it’s one game at a time but you can’t help but not think about the upcoming game against Philadelphia. They’re the biggest obstacle this year. How do you feel about the second matchup?
A: I haven’t even thought about that Philly game yet.
Osi was quite giving of his time to myself and his avid fans but he didn’t stop there. One lucky youngster was fortunate enough to go head to head against the two time Pro Bowler in a game of Wii bowling! It was a neck in neck game but in the end, the Super Bowl champion came out victorious – not before setting a good example for his young opponent and giving him the opportunity of a lifetime! That is not to say that these youths were not good examples on their own.
In order for them to have participated in the “Guys Night Out” event, and interact with Osi, they had to have maintained a solid B average in school. These young scholars managed to keep their grades up and make the night much more meaningful. Perry Ellis handed out footballs to these Athletes For Charities kids, to which they all seemed quite grateful.
Osi’s philanthropic off field resume is almost as long as his stat sheet. With news in the sports world ranging from the brutal to the downright horrific, seeing an athlete like Osi Umenyiora come out and help make his fans’ Christmas season brighter, after practice mind you, is truly a shining example for all to see. Osi signed many posters and footballs and took the time to allow for photos as well. In the midst of a very busy Lord & Taylor store, with frenzied shoppers and fans everywhere that the eye could see, the message of the night was as clear as the star that the Three Wise Men followed – it is in the giving that we receive.
A special thank you to Perry Ellis and, of course, to Osi Umenyiora.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Brett Favre, David Diehl, ESPN, Giants, Giants/National Football League, Hakeem Nicks, Lord & Taylor, Michael Kay, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, New York Jets, Osi Umenyiora, Perry Ellis, Philadelphia Eagles, Sean Kerr, Steve Smith, Super Bowl, Tavaris Jackson