Return to Denver Stirs Powerful Emotions, Memories for Giants' Veteran
He will never forget it. Nor the shock and tragedy that soon followed.
Guard Rich Seubert was a 22-year-old undrafted rookie free agent from Western Illinois University when he signed with the Giants prior to the 2001 season. He and the Giants, eight months off a Super Bowl XXXV loss to Baltimore, opened that 2001 season on Sept. 10 at Denver, a 31-20 loss.
Afterward, the Giants flew home to New York and arrived only a few hours before the Sept. 11 terrorist airplane attacks on the World Trade Center's twin towers in Manhattan.
Seubert's subsequent introduction to the NFL would unfold in poignant ways.
Seubert, now 30 and a nine-season veteran (all with the Giants), will join his New York teammates in Denver on Thanksgiving night for a game against the Broncos -- the first time he or the team has played there since that night eight years ago.
Recently, Seubert talked with FanHouse about the emotional start to his career, the trying experiences surrounding Sept. 11 and how all those memories continue to linger with him.
The following are Seubert's comments, in his own words:
"I grew up in Marshfield, Wisc., small town, never thought I would be drafted, even though people were telling me I had a shot. When I wasn't, my agent told me three teams were interested: San Francisco, Miami and the Giants. I was convinced that coming to New York would be more like Wisconsin than the other two cities. And the Giants had Jim Fassel as head coach and Jim McNally as the offensive line coach. I liked them both, and McNally was regarded as one of the game's greatest teachers among linemen. So, I chose New York.
"The first meeting, the first practice, I was lost. I kept working. And on the final cut day, my Giants roommate and I were in the room when the phone rang. Neither one of us slept that night. Neither one of us wanted to answer it. I finally did. They asked for him. I had made it. I was a Giant.
"We go to Denver for the season opener, and I played on the kickoff and field goal teams. I remember the stadium being big and beautiful. It was pretty loud. We didn't play as well as we would have liked. We let them christen the place pretty good.
"We flew home and landed around 4 or 5 in the morning. I lived in a basement apartment in Saddle Brook, N.J., at the time, so, I went with my roommate back there and we crashed. Soon, the phone is ringing off the hook. Both of our parents were trying to reach us. I was told to turn on the TV. I could not believe what I was actually watching. We went to practice on Wednesday, not knowing if there would be NFL games and, of course, they would be canceled for that weekend. At practice, you could see the smoke from the buildings rolling across the sky. Everybody was scared. We just, as a team, tried to figure out what we could do to help.
"We ended up taking a ferry from Jersey City over to Manhattan to a dock near the site. The firefighters and police officers working down there were housed on boats at this dock. We boarded the boats as a team with supplies. We talked to them. We tried to encourage them. Mostly, we just listened. We were a bunch of big football players who felt helpless.
"Nearly everyone that we talked to had lost somebody in the attacks. Family or friends lost. Nobody wanted to stop working down there in the recovery, even though they were exhausted. I knew, after that, I would never see Sundays or my life the same way.
"We thought flying home after that loss was a pretty lousy feeling. Then you experience tragedy and safety in the same event and you realize a few things -- what if we had flown back at the same time as the attacks? The veteran players, guys who had been here longer, took it real hard. I was a young man who was just getting to know the city. I had just played my first NFL game in Denver. But it didn't matter -- it forced everyone to become a leader in some way. Everyone on our team was invested.
"Nine years later, it's still so sad. I still think about all the people injured and killed and there is nothing that can be done to change it. I know we're going to Denver on a business trip on Thanksgiving. We are going there to win a game. But for me, it's more.
"I was at a charity event recently. I met a Giants fan who told me that he was at the game in Denver in 2001. He said he got some tickets and it was the thrill of his life to see us play there that night. He also said he worked in the towers. He would have been in those towers that day.
"He feels thankful for Giants football. He said it saved his life. And he said he is coming to Denver for the Thanksgiving game on Thursday night. He said he does not know how he could be anywhere else with us going back there for the first time since. I understand what he meant.''