On Feb. 5, the New YorkGiants and the New England Patriots willface off in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Ind. About989 miles away. in Tampa,there will likely bea new contingent ofGiants fans.
For fans of the Universityof South Florida, the Giants were the playoff team to root for – thanks in large partto the presence of two former USF stars: second-yeardefensive end Jason Pierre-Pauland rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams.
Pierre-Paul is the morenoticeable of the two, havingintroduced himself to thequarterbacks of the National
Football League (NFL) with 4.5 sacks, along with60 tackles and two forcedfumbles as a rookie. He then exceeded allexpectations with 16.5 sacks,good for fourth-best in theNFL this year.
His former and current teammate Williams had animpressive debut season,with 78 tackles and one sack.
But Williams’ claim to fame came Sunday against the SanFrancisco 49ers in the NFCChampionship Game.
With 10 minutes remainingin overtime, Williams stripped 49ers return man KyleWilliams on a punt return,giving the Giants the ball atthe San Francisco 24-yardline. Lawrence Tynes kicked the Giants intothe Super Bowl five plays later.
USF linebacker SamBarrington played with bothPierre-Paul and Williams and said he can hardly call himself an unbiased viewer.
“I was speechless at first (watching Williams force the overtime fumble),” he said.”Immediately after, I just felt happy. It was just like, ‘Wow.’ I was awestruck. It’s such a big play that he made that setthose guys up for a dreamtype of football situation,being in the Super Bowl. I’m just definitelyhappy for him. I’m excited forhim. It’s exciting for him and(Pierre-Paul) and I just can’twait to watch the game. Whenhe made that play, I felt like Imade it myself – that’s howhappy I was for him.”
The two were very close atUSF, together anchoring a Bullsdefense that gave up just20 points per game in 2010.Yet, Barrington said he hasn’t spoken to Williams since thestart of the playoffs, letting him”focus on his business,” butexpects to catch up once the game is over.
“I have faith that the Giantsare going to take it,” he said.
Barrington said he haslearned a lot from Pierre-Pauland Williams and their recentsuccess on the largest ofstages.
“I just learned to work hard and stay humble througheverything,” he said. “Everybodyhas their own stories of ups and downs and when lifemight not be going good, andeverybody has stories of whenlife might be at its best, butthrough it all, just stay humbleand work hard. If you reallylove something, then don’t let anything stop you from getting to where it’s at.”
Pierre-Paul and Williams werenot the only former Bulls involvedin the NFC Championship game.Barrington and Bulls fans werealso following the career offormer head coach Jim Leavitt,who is the first-year linebackers coach in San Francisco.
“I felt for (Leavitt),” Barrington said. “First of all, I was happyfor him that his defense made it to the highest point they made it this year, but I definitely felt for him. Coach Leavitt is a guy that’s passionate about thegame, but the other thing I know about him is thathe’s resilient, so he’ll comeback stronger next year.”