Jason Pierre-Paul did a lot of impressive things on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Playing 46 snaps in his debut for the New York Giants after his July 4 fireworks accident. Pressuring Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston on a number of occasions. Shoot, playing at all this season with a permanently damaged right had is impressive.
Perhaps, though, the most impressive part of Pierre-Paul's return has nothing to do with on-field play. It has to do with what seems to be a new-found maturity. A sense of purpose and determination, perhaps a new appreciation for his athletic gifts and his continued opportunity to use them. A realization that life is precious and should be lived to its fullest.
Here is an Instagram post from Pierre-Paul on Tuesday.
I want to play every game like its my LAST!!! I wasn't suppose to be playing in 2015 season, So they say.. So Giants fans lets get it! Go BigBlue because I'm back and I can't wait until the next game. So come out and show your boy some support, the Big Blue Crew and our DEFENSE!!! Oh yeah I have 4 tickets to this home game to give away.
The post grabbed my attention, probably because Pat Traina and I spent considerable time during our most recent "Big Blue Chat" podcast discussing Pierre-Paul and what seems to be more of a grown up approach to his job and his life.
To her credit, it was Pat who first broached the subject of the change in Pierre-Paul.
"I really think that I saw a player who grew up by leaps and bounds, who really matured," Traina said. "I think his performance on Sunday really told us a lot about the maturation and the growth that he experienced."
Pierre-Paul gave the media glimpse of how he had changed during a media scrum at his locker last week.
"You can't take things for granted, they can be taken away from you just like that. But I'm very excited going out there because I got a second chance to do what I love, you know? It could have been taken away, but God spared me. Each moment that I'm out there, I'm giving it my all," Pierre-Paul said a few days before playing against the Buccaneers.
Pierre-Paul tweeted this on Wednesday, pointing to how parenthood has changed him.
As I see my son growing up and spreading his wings my heart fills with joy for him. I just want the… https://t.co/FWJuahH4ci— iamjasonpierrepaul (@UDWJPP) November 11, 2015
Long-time Big Blue View readers will know that yours truly has never truly been enamored with Pierre-Paul. The talent has always been easy to see, but for years now I have -- fairly, I believe -- questioned both Pierre-Paul's maturity and his motivation.
There are signs that perhaps we should no longer do that. Those come not from how he played Sunday, but from other things. Like how hard he appears to have worked to get the opportunity to play. How appreciative he seems to be of the opportunity he still has. How fatherhood has made him different. This from ESPN's Dan Graziano:
Pierre-Paul's new normal isn't all deformed fingers and button-fumbling. It has football now, which is huge, but it also has a happy, little smile waiting for him at the end of the day. After he finished discussing his postgame performance, all Pierre-Paul wanted to know was where the family area was, so he could see his 10-month-old son, Josiah, who'd made the trip to see his dad play for the first time. Pierre-Paul is a father now, which any father knows is what really changes you. That was as big a part of this big, big Sunday as anything.
Head coach Tom Coughlin has said he believes Pierre-Paul will "do nothing but get better" on the field.
It seems as though Pierre-Paul may have already become a better person after all he has gone through in recent months. That development, quite honestly, would be more important than anything he will ever do on a football field.