CAMERA in hand, Lawrence Tynes has been taking photo after photo this week, capturing precious moments which he will want to remember until his dying day.
American football players dream their whole lives of performing in a Super Bowl. Some walk away with their ambitions unfulfilled. For the only Scot ever to feature in the NFL’s crowning showpiece, even a second appearance is to be savoured to the max.
Four years after he was part of the New York Giants team that produced a late surge to defeat the New England Patriots, he has offered advice to those experiencing America’s greatest circus for the first time. “Take it all in,” he said. “Because you never know when you are going to get back.”
Six weeks ago, there seemed little prospect that Tynes and the Giants would be preparing for a reunion with their old foes when the Vince Lombardi Trophy is put up for grabs tomorrow at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Down, and almost out in the penultimate week of the regular season, the champions of 2008 had to beat their neighbouring Jets to keep any hope alive. Down 7-0, the Greenock-born kicker converted a field goal that began an unexpected resurgence. Since that moment, against all odds, New York has never looked back, culminating in a victory over San Francisco in the NFC Championship game which was decided in overtime by a swipe from the Scot’s trusty foot.
Kickers are rarely the heroes but with a place in Super Bowl XVLI on the line, he could easily have become the villain. Inside, he was not as calm as he seemed. “I am only human,” the 31-year-old confided. “I get nervous. I am not a robot, but I certainly know how to deal with it. That’s what kind of separates guys: it’s if you can deal with the pressure and the nerves. Everyone gets nervous, and if they say they don’t, they are telling a lie.
“You just have to handle it. You learn through preparation, my practice. I have great confidence in what I am doing. I don’t feel like when I go out there I should think anything other than making the kick.”
In 2008 in Phoenix, few could see anything other than a New England win. Spearheaded then, as now, by quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots were chasing history, one win from completing the perfect undefeated season. The Giants had scraped into the play-offs and were forced to play every tie away from home. Their prospects disregarded, Tynes provided an early lead. Brady guided his team in front with barely five minutes left. It was to be Caledonia’s finest who punctuated New York’s rally, converting the extra point after Plaxico Burress’ decisive late touchdown to cap a 17-14 win.
The experience passed by in a blur, the former Scottish Claymore admits. The commemorative ring which he keeps in a safety deposit box is his enduring relic. “I go in there to get the passports out once in a while but I don’t wear it,” he revealed. “Seeing it brings back a lot of memories for sure. But at this point in time, that’s at the back of my mind. I’m still playing, and hopefully I play a lot longer, maybe another five-ten years. Once you win one of them, you want to experience that feeling again. Second to your children being born, it’s one of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have.”
There were other perks too. On the subsequent Tartan Day parade in New York, there was an obvious choice for the job of Grand Marshal. “That was a lot of fun,” declared Tynes, who moved to Florida at the age of 11. “You had three or 4,000 pipers coming down the street. That sticks out. I had my kilt on. Sean Connery and some other famous guys had done it. It was amazing.” A vengeful New England will hope to rain on the Giants parade. Although Brady, making a record-equalling fifth Super Bowl appearance has lost a step, he remains in control of a potent offensive force.
“He is a great quarterback,” acknowledged the Giants London-born defensive end Osi Umenyiora. “The most we can do is just try to get as much pressure as we can on him, cover his receivers and try and confuse him as much as we can.”
New York will trust that Eli Manning, the Giants’ pass master, repeats his heroics of his previous Super Bowl excursion, when he was named as the Most Valuable Player. Tynes, if required, will add a clinical touch. If the title is at stake, bring it on.
“You just have to prepare yourself that it’s going to come down to you,” he said. “Hopefully, everything goes well.”
It would be another Kodak moment for the books.