GAINESVILLE, Fla. No offense to his former Gators teammate, but Justin Trattou had a better time at Sunday's New York-New England Super Bowl than he did four years ago when the Giants beat the Patriots.
When the Giants won the Super Bowl following the 2007 season Trattou, a UF freshman at the time, attended a party at former UF defensive lineman Javier Estopinan's house with several of his teammates. A New Jersey native who grew up a Giants fan, Trattou was pumped to see Eli Manning win Super Bowl MVP honors in New York's 17-14 win.
"I was definitely going nuts," Trattou said Monday night.
As Manning led the Giants to another comeback in New York's 21-17 win Sunday over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, Trattou stood on New York's sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium confident in the outcome when the Giants took over with about four minutes left and trailing by two points.
After all, Trattou had spent the playoffs chasing Manning around at practice as the scout team's top pass rusher and knew Manning was unflappable in late-game situations.
"Just from watching him this whole year, I had not one ounce of doubt," Trattou said. "This year he has just taken over as the clutch quarterback in the game. He showed again (Sunday) night why they pay him the big bucks. It was a whole team effort, but I definitely had a ton of confidence in Eli to go down there and finish it out."
Manning once again won MVP honors after leading the Giants on a nine-play, 88-yard scoring drive that put New York ahead with 57 seconds remaining.
When Tom Brady's Hail Mary pass dropped to the turf on the game's final play, Trattou joined his Giants teammates on the field to celebrate as confetti rained down from above.
The moment brought back a lot of memories for Trattou, a Giants rookie defensive end who played in six games primarily on special teams. He was inactive for the playoffs once New York's talented defensive line got healthy but continued to contribute on the scout team in practice.
Trattou won a state championship at Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep as a senior in 2006, helped the Gators win a national title as a sophomore in 2008, and now has a Super Bowl ring coming his way.
Trattou will participate in the Giants' Super Bowl Parade on Tuesday that is expected to draw at least 2 million people on the streets of Manhattan.
"It was definitely a crazy experience to win that game," said Trattou, who arrived back home with the Giants from Indianapolis late Monday afternoon. "All the confetti was like winning the national championship game. That was one of the best feelings of my life and now this ranks right up there."
Trattou was visible on the sidelines during Sunday's game encouraging his teammates and keeping a close eye on a back-and-forth game.
Trattou grew up in Ramsey, N.J., about a half hour from the Giants' home stadium and attended several games as a kid. One of his former high school teammates is Matt Simms, who played at Tennessee and is the son of former Giants quarterback Phil Simms.
Instead of retiring to his dorm room the way he did four years ago when Manning led the Giants to a Super Bowl win, Trattou attended the team's victory party on Sunday night and into the wee hours of Monday morning. He met the families of his coaches and teammates.
Trattou also had family and friends in town for the game. He had to remind himself that he was a long way from a little more than a year ago when he and Gators teammate Duke Lemmens often shared a Moped around campus.
"It's a dream come true," Trattou said. "I got a little bit of sleep, but it's definitely been a very exciting time. I grew up a born-and-raised Giants fan."
Once Tuesday's parade ends and the offseason begins, Trattou will turn his focus to playing if the Giants make it back to the Super Bowl next season.
He signed with New York as an undrafted free agent and made the team despite a roster loaded with proven defensive linemen. The success of his rookie season has made Trattou hungry for more.
"There's always a ton of people that want to say, He'll never make it, blah, blah, blah.' And then sure enough, I go there and beat about 10 other guys at defensive end during camp, make it on the practice squad, and then the first week of the year I ended up playing about 15 snaps on defense," Trattou said. "I played on special teams and a little bit of defense here and there on the best D-line in the country. I ended up going out there and giving it a shot and it ended up as good as it could have."
He'll have a Super Bowl ring soon to add to his collection.