I remember talking to Kenny Phillips before a New York Giants training camp practice in 2011. This was early in camp, and the team hadn't yet re-signed veteran safety Deon Grant, but Phillips was talking about how much Grant had helped him while on the team the previous season, and how he was still watching Grant's tape to help himself refine his game. A few days later, the Giants did re-sign Grant. And about six months after that, they won the Super Bowl. Which is why Grant, an 11-year NFL veteran who played for four teams, announced Wednesday that he would retire as a Giant. He didn't play last year, so the Giants' victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI turns out to have been his final game.
Grant's not a Hall of Fame player, or a Ring of Honor candidate. He's the kind of guy who'll be introduced on the field with his former teammates at 10-year and 20-year anniversary celebrations for that Super Bowl title team and some fans in the crowd will say, "Who?" and others will say, "Oh yeah, I remember him!" He filled that third-safety role that the Giants have employed so enthusiastically in recent seasons, and he filled a role as a mentor as well. Just last week, current Giants safety Antrel Rolle brought him up, unsolicited, during an interview I was having with him, as someone who helped make him better.
If you'll pardon a bit of a cliché here, Grant was not a superstar, but he was the guts-of-the-team kind of guy that they say you need to win championships. His effect can still be felt on the current team, and I offer this post figuring Giants fans would smile when they read his name today because of how sweet those championship memories still are.