Beat the odds.
Jason Pierre-Paul said during a Zoom call with media on Monday that he has a plaque in his home office that includes those words.
Pierre-Paul certainly has.
New York Giants fans know JPP’s story. Maybe too well.
Pierre-Paul had a brilliant start to his career and seemed en route to joining the pantheon of great defensive ends the Giants franchise is known for. Michael Strahan. Andy Robustelli. George Martin. Leonard Marshall. Justin Tuck. Osi Umenyiora. Pierre-Paul’s name was headed there.
Then things changed.
Pierre-Paul blew his right hand apart in a 2015 July 4 fireworks accident. Many figured he would never play again. He did, but things were different.
He played eight games in 2015 with a massive club usually protecting his damaged right hand, but had just one sack and while he knew he was still a problem for offensive tackles simply couldn’t use both hands to finish plays.
He wasn’t dominant, but he played well enough in 2016 with seven sacks and then had 8.5 sacks in 2017. The Giants, though, had an embarrassing and controversy-filled 3-13 season in 2017 and a new regime took over.
New Giants GM Dave Gettleman sent Pierre-Paul home, trading him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JPP has had 30.5 sacks in three seasons since, overcoming a broken neck from a car accident that cost him six games in 2019.
He’s been a better player, and seen his career, last far longer than anyone — probably except him — dreamed possible when he was lying in a Florida hospital in 2015 wondering how much of his right hand doctors were going to be able to save.
Pierre-Paul said Monday that he “shocked the world” by coming back at all after the 2015 fireworks disaster.
He has shocked the Giants and many around the NFL by continuing to play at an astoundingly high level despite his deformed right hand.
“I’m just being myself. I can’t speak for others, I’m just being myself really. With all the things that I’ve been through I’m just over-achieving, letting everybody know no matter what you go through you can do whatever,” Pierre-Paul said.
“Resilience to me is never giving up. Being there for somebody when they really, truly need you. Just being yourself, whether it’s good times or bad times. You just the same person, never changing.
“I’ve been through a lot. The things I go through I just think happy thoughts.”
Pierre-Paul said he first learned about resilience from his father, Jean Pierre-Paul, who wnet blind around the age of 30 and has never seen him play football.
“He did all he can. He never quit and to this day he’s happy and joyful and laughing,” Pierre-Paul said.
’To those people out there facing something … when you say resilience you’ve just got to look at the things you can do in life. There’s going to be people who say you can’t do it, because they can’t do it. If you put your mind to it and put God first, man, you can do whatever you want to in life. No matter how hard it seems just don’t quit.
“It’s easier said than done, but I never quit at anything in life I did. Nothing. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got until I can’t. Then once you can’t you’ll know that you can’t, but that’s not quitting, you’re just knowing yourself.”
Pierre-Paul has come a long, long way from the young man who was anything but well-spoken during his early days with the Giants and who is remembered for dumping teammate Prince Amukamara in a cold tub.
Life experiences will do that to a person.
Pierre-Paul won a Super Bowl ring when he helped the Giants stun Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2012. Now, he will try to win his second ring with Brady quarterbacking the team he plays for.
“I cherish it more than you ever will know. My first Super Bowl I didn’t know nothing about it. I didn’t understand football like that. I was just there playing football, and I didn’t really know too much,” Pierre-Paul said. “But, now, there’s a lot going into it. I’ve got two kids that are ready to take pictures and my son he understands the game, he understands that his daddy plays football in the Super Bowl. So, the only thing to do now is to win it. To win it and hold that trophy. Let him know that hard work pays off, even when you’re going through things in life.”
He’s 32 now. He knows his time in the game is running out. He’s now the grizzled veteran passing advice to younger teammates who don’t have his NFL resume or his life experience.
What does he tell them?
“I tell ‘em man, take everything in. Make sure you take everything in because tomorrow’s not promised, man. This is not promised. Super Bowl is not promised next year for you guys. It took me nine years to get back to this point. … I’ve been talking to guys. I tell ‘em this is a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous, tremendous achievement. Super Bowl is not promised every year,” Pierre-Paul said.
“It’s hard to get to this point. Once you get to this point just realize how blessed you are and don’t take it for granted.”
Memo to JPP’s Buccaneers teammates — listen to the man. He knows what he’s talking about.
Giants fans have an undeniable and thoroughly understandable anti-Brady sentiment. If the Bucs win Sunday and Pierre-Paul gets to hoist the Lombardi Trophy with that partial right hand, it will be hard not to feel good for him.