A message from a teen-age cancer patient last week helped remind the New York Giants who they are. Adam Merchant, a 15-year-old who has been diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, visited the Giants last week thru the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
His message to the defending champs, losers of two straight games? "Play like world champions."
The Giants did exactly that, dominating the Green Bay Packers in a meeting of the last two Super Bowl winners. After the 38-10 victory the Giants discussed the impact of Merchant's words.
"The message was loud and clear," said head coach Tom Coughlin. "Guys were very appreciative that he was here and really what he said was most meaningful. We picked up on that and that's basically the challenge that we kept throughout the weekend and on our Saturday night meetings, ‘play like world champions.' "
Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck said Merchant undoubtedly had an impact on the players.
"You’ve got to put it into perspective. First of all, he’s a Make A Wish kid. They get to do whatever they want to do with that wish and he chose to come to a New York Giant game. That’s kind of humbling, the fact that a kid’s only wish is that he wants to come see us play.," Tuck said. "When he stepped out and we gave him the floor, he just came up and said we need to go out there and play like champions, play like the champions that we are. It kind of hit home.
"You’ve got this kid that doesn’t know us but from watching us on TV every Sunday and it’s so profound because certain people can tell you that, but when you see a kid, an innocent kid, come up to you and say "you need to play like a champion" – I told him he needs to go into motivational speaking because he kind of woke us up a little bit."
Over the years Coughlin has reached outside of football to find motivation for his players. Prior to the run to the 2008 Super Bowl Col. Greg Gadson, a double amputee, spoke to and became an inspiration for the Giants. In recent years, Gen. Ray Odierno has spoken to the team. Now, Merchant.
If the Giants go on another of those late-season runs they have become known for, a cancer-stricken teen-ager will be part of the reason why.