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Osi Umenyiora: "No doubt" he wanted to retire as a Giant

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Full text of Umenyiora's retirement remarks

Osi Umenyiora
Osi Umenyiora
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Seeing all the coaches and everybody, it's tough, but at the end of the day, you know, you have to do what you have to do. I think, obviously, we've got Coach Spags, Coach Nunn, Coach Merritt, all the guys here who were supporting me throughout my career. This is truly, truly an unbelievable experience to come out here and see all you guys. I see Paul, I see Tom, I see Patti, I see Ralph -- I see all you guys who have been here throughout my career. When I first got drafted, probably didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't think I knew what was going to happen, but thankfully I made the best of it.

I think when it was first announced that this day was going to come, I think it was maybe about three weeks ago, some of you might have been wondering what took so long. But I just want you guys to know that for the past three weeks, I've been in negotiations with Jerry Reese about the terms of this one-day contract. I wanted a two-day contract. You know, obviously, Jerry wasn't going for that. So, we finally settled on the one-day contract, and I'm here.
I really must thank Mr. Reese, Jerry, for everything that he did. I know I was a real knucklehead at times. For him to be as professional as he was, and to handle that situation the way he did, it really showed what type of man he was. Me and him remain friends, and we're going to remain friends forever.

I think, for me, I think it would be better for me to talk about some of the things I learned from the people who were here, rather than for me to sit up here and talk about myself. So I want to tell you guys a couple of stories about some of the guys here that you guys might not have known about.

Start with Coach Coughlin. Coach Coughlin, I think you guys know the type of person who he shows you here. The tough personality that he has, and a gruff coach or whatever. I had an opportunity to go down to Jacksonville, this was maybe in like 2005, and he was having a (Jay Fund) event there for the children. I went there and I walked into the ballroom, I was sitting over there looking around. In comes Coach Coughlin and he was all smiles, he was so happy, excited. The whole room lit up when he walked in there. And for me, I had never seen that side of him. I was looking like, what the heck is going on, who is this guy? But, come to find out that this is a great man and he's a very well-loved and well-respected man. So l learned from that day on that you have to have different personalities to be in the NFL. You have to have a personality that you present when you're at work, and you have to have a personality that you present when you're outside of work. I really learned a lot from that day. He's a true inspiration to me. The New York Giants are lucky to have him.

I've got to go to Mr. (John) Mara. I can't say enough about Mr. Mara. I remember in 2008, when I got hurt. I was laid up in the hospital and everybody had left, and I was just lying there. They had told everybody I was out for the season. I didn't know what was going on. It was about 9, 10 o' clock at night and all of a sudden I see somebody walking into the hospital. And I'm looking up, and I can't lie, my first reaction was, ‘Is that Jesus?' That was the first thing that came to my head, ‘Is this Jesus?' But no, it was Mr. Mara and he came in there and he sat with me for a little while and he talked to me. To this day, I will never forget that because it showed me what a person that he was. I wasn't going to be playing for the season, I was lost for the season. Everybody knew that. He did not have to do that. He didn't have to show that he was going to come in there and care for his player, but he did. I really appreciate that, also. I love you, Mr. Mara. Thank you for everything you've done for me.

Mr. Tisch, Mr. Steve Tisch. I know he's not here, but I've got to tell you something funny about that guy. I think we had just won the second Super Bowl. So he was having—there was an event in the city. It was a black tie event, you had to be dressed to get in. So obviously, I came, I was well-dressed. But I had a friend with me, he had on jean shorts and some sneakers. I guess that's just what people from Alabama do, I don't know. This is what he had on. So we get to the door, and they refuse to let us in, because obviously my friend wasn't dressed appropriately. But I wasn't going to go in without him. So I'm standing out there and I think word got to Mr. Tisch that one of his players was outside. So Mr. Tisch comes to the door and the manager proceeds to explain to him why he's not going to let my friend in. So Mr. Tisch sat there patiently and listened to him. At the end of it, he said, ‘Ok, this is what's going to happen here. You're either going to let this guy in or I'm going to buy this place and I'm going to turn it into a parking lot.' So they let us in. As I'm walking in, I'm thinking to myself, ‘Did this guy just tell this man that he was going to turn this place into a parking lot?' As a player, you think you're the man, you think you're all high and mighty. Then you really see what high and mighty really is. From that day on, I said to myself, ‘You know what, that's what I want to be when I grow up.' It was really amazing.
So these are just some things that I've learned from all the people. I see my guy Zak (DeOssie) over there. I see all these people. Like I said, Coach Spags, Coach Nunn, Skiba. This is really, really an unbelievable day. I thank you guys for really coming out and supporting me throughout my career. My guy Russell Spielman, I can't forget about Russ. Just everybody in general, I know I probably forgot some people. Paul, back there also, I see you too, man. So, thank you guys and any questions that you have for me, I'll be glad to answer.

Q: Why was it important for you to do this here?
A: Well, I played 10 years here. There was literally no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do. Hindsight is 20/20. I think when it was time for me to leave and go to Atlanta, I was excited about it. But once I got there, I was like, ‘damn.' You know? You miss everything, man. There's nothing like being a New York Giant. And I wish some of the players here would truly understand that, because it's easy to think one thing, but once you get the chance to go someplace else and experience something, you truly realize what family is. And New York is home for me. I would literally be on the plane coming back from games, and I loved my Atlanta teammates, don't get me wrong. We would be watching games, we'd be watching the Giants. I would be openly cheering for the Giants in a plane full of Atlanta Falcons. They would be looking at me, ‘Is this guy out of his mind? What are you doing?' I just couldn't help myself. It was that Giant in me. So there was no doubt about when it was time for me to retire, I was going to come here.

Q: What did it mean for you to play for the Giants? What type of pride do you take in that? Thanks for talking to us even though it's not Thursday.
A: It's really, really amazing. It's hard to explain. I think anybody who's been around here and who's won here would tell you that there's really nothing like winning in New York. There's nothing like losing here, too. But winning here is truly an amazing experience and being around people. I know they give the media—they give you guys all kinds of flak, but I truly got to understand that you have to do a job. And I really appreciate your guys' work. And there's really nothing like playing in New York and being here.

Q: What did it mean for Michael Strahan, he talked to anyone who would listen, about how you were going to be great, you were going to break his sack record? What did that confidence in you mean?
A: Strahan was a great man from an early age. He taught me so much. I love that guy. When I would see him, he was the consummate professional. He was what I aspired to me be as a player and as a person. So I would just sit back and watch him and see some of the things that he did. I learned so much from him. So when he would say those things about me, the inspiration was—because Strahan's just doesn't say that type of stuff about anybody. So he would say that about me and I believed him, and I listened to him, and I learned so much from him. He's my bigger brother.

Q: How about for you, as you go back to your Giant career, what's your favorite moment? You had a lot of them, but what's your favorite?
A: Honestly, I think the first Super Bowl we won. Just being out there on that football field. I think I was telling some of the people upstairs, to me, it doesn't even seem like that's real. It's almost like I watched it somewhere. It was an amazing experience. It was a dream-like experience. There was really nothing like winning that first Super Bowl. The second one was good, but the first one was unreal.

Q: Tom Coughlin said earlier to us that the one takeaway from that game was the picture that is somewhere in this building. I think it was you, Tuck and Strahan walking away from Brady. You know that picture?
A: Yeah, that was a great moment. I think there's very few people who know the feeling of nobody giving you a chance to win. If Coach Coughlin was praying, I'm quite sure God himself said, ‘You guys are not going to win this game.' For us to go out there and do that the way we did, and dominate that offense the way we did, it was truly an experience. You never really see defensive line play like that. Like, we controlled the game. We determined the outcome of that game. Obviously Spags came up with a tremendous game plan, and we went out there and executed it. To see that, and to know—I think the NFL is changing because of that. You see more and more teams trying to go for the whole NASCAR package and put more pressure on quarterbacks. Because they know that this is how you are going to affect the game going forward. To have been a part of that was serious.

Q: You joked before about your battles with the Giants sometimes. If you think back to your emotions back then, could you have imagined a time where they would welcome you back or you would want to be welcomed back?
A: Well, yes and no. Yes, because, Jerry would tell me that he loved me. He was my guy and I felt that, I honestly felt that from him. So yeah, I knew that after a certain point—maybe like the first time I was like, ‘Man, what's going on?' But after a certain point, I truly understood exactly where he was coming from, like how do you do that for a player, and you have other players at his position, and they're going to be asking for the same thing. You're going to cripple the franchise doing that. But when you're younger, you don't understand that, you just want to declare and get what you want to get. He has to do what he has to do for the entire franchise, not just for one individual player. I understood that, and he understood where I was coming from—I think everybody did. It's a business at the end of the day. But the love was never lost, no doubt about it.

Q: What's next?
A: Oh, I'm going to London. Yeah, I took a job with the NFL, so I'm going to be working in London. I'll be going out there maybe in about a week or so. They're obviously trying to globalize the game. I have to give a shout out to my man Mark Waller, who's the president of NFL International. He really came through and made something happen for me. So I'll be headed out there in about a week. You know, that's the next phase of my life—be the next Michael Strahan of London.

Q: Do you know what you're specifically going to be doing in London?
A: Well, a little bit of broadcasting and a little bit of teaching the game to the people. Whatever it is that they need me to do, I'll be out there doing. They haven't really said anything specific, they just said, ‘We're taking you to London and you're going to be in London.' I'm going to have to go into an office every day. I don't know how that's going to work, but I'm excited about it. I'm excited about the opportunity.

Q: One guy you took under your wing was Jason Pierre-Paul. Obviously he's going through some things right now. Have you been in touch with him? What can you say about what you could tell him to look forward to moving forward?
A: Jason is funny, man. I called Jason, and I called him and he didn't answer the phone. Instead of calling me back, he Facetimed me. I thought it was kind of weird to be Facetiming another guy. I'm looking at Jason, I'm like, ‘Hi Jason.' He's waving at me, he's like, ‘What's going on?' But he was in good spirits. This was maybe about a week and a half, two weeks ago. He was in good spirits, he seemed like he was himself. Whenever he's ready, he's going to be back, there's no doubt about that. This team needs him. I think he knows that, I think everybody knows that. You've got a truly dominant football player. I haven't seen one like him since Strahan, honestly. So I think the team needs him, he needs this team. He has to come back, and I think he will come back and be strong.

Q: You have a young defensive end on this team who thinks the world of you, Owa. Have you had the chance to meet him?
A: I talked to him, actually, last year—the year before he came out. Me and him just sat down and chatted a little bit right now. I watched some of his tape, I think he looks very explosive. He's going to be a great player for this franchise.

Q: Are you exhausted from football? Everyone always says they can still play. Were there opportunities for you, and if you had to, could you still play?
A: Yeah, I mean, I think so. I actually got an offer on Tuesday to go play, which I thought was pretty ironic. They had six months to do something, then they wait to the day before I'm supposed to retire, like ‘Hey, what's going on?' Like no, ‘I'm okay.' Once I made the decision I came to a little while ago. I said to myself, ‘I already know what it's like playing with another franchise'—and Atlanta was great, no doubt about that. For me, it was either I was going to play for the Giants, or I wasn't going to play football at all. Once that became clear, where obviously the Giants have some young players who they need to develop who would play the same position that I would be playing. And if I was there, I would do nothing but stunt their growth. Once that became aware and I understood that, I said to myself, ‘Why don't I retire? I'm not going to be a journeyman defensive end, I don't deserve that.' I made the decision to do that, and thankfully the Giants were gracious enough to let me do this.

Q: Physically how do you feel?
A: How do I look, man? I feel great, my body feels good. I don't feel any pain or injuries. I lost some weight, so I think once the weight goes, you kind of lose a lot of the joint pain stuff that comes along the way. So I feel good.

Q: Can you say which team gave you the offer?
A: No, no, no. You guys won't like if -- actually, you probably would. But I'm not doing to do that. They don't deserve that.