Michigan was well-represented at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Sunday, and it was former Wolverine wide receiver Mario Manningham’s late-game heroics that helped the New York Giants seal their 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots.

New York and New England each have two Michigan alumni on their roster: Manningham and center David Baas for the Giants, and quarterback Tom Brady and punter Zoltan Mesko for the Patriots.

Brady’s illustrious NFL career has been well-documented, with his No. 12 jersey splashed on magazine covers and filling store racks. The three-time Super Bowl champion was less than four minutes from his fourth championship when Manningham stole the show — and the ring.

With 3:46 remaining and the Giants trailing by two, Manningham lined up at his own 12-yard line, the lone receiver to the left of New York quarterback Eli Manning.

He angled toward the sideline and made a beeline downfield. Manningham quickly beat the cornerback and saw the safety coming across the field to help. Manning lofted the pass between the defenders and onto Manningham’s fingertips. He cradled the ball and tap-danced his way up the sideline for a 38-yard catch — the longest play of the day — before being forced out of bounds.

Manning to Manningham.

“I knew I had to freeze my feet when the ball touched my fingertips,” Manningham said in the post-game press conference. “Wherever I was at when the ball hit my fingertips, I just froze my feet and fell.

“I knew I was either going to get hit or hit the ground. I knew something was going to happen, but I knew that I couldn’t let that ball go.”

Just like that, a player that used to represent the Maize and Blue was standing out for another kind of blue — Big Blue.

“For the next 50 years, you’ll be watching replays of that catch if the Giants come back to win this game,” NBC color commentator Chris Collinsworth said during the broadcast.

New York did win the game. Manningham’s catch brought the Giants to midfield and set up their game-winning score that came with just under a minute remaining.

Manningham might never make another catch like it, but he secured a spot in Super Bowl lore because he made one catch at just the right time — the one that helped make his team the NFL champion.

“Good thing I wear 11s,” Manningham said of his shoe size. “Because if I wore eleven and a halves, I don’t think I’d have been in.”

Good thing.

Manningham, a third-round Giants’ draft pick in 2008, was slotted at third on the depth chart at wide receiver, but his quarterback believed Manningham would be the unsung hero.

“I had a feeling he would have a good day,” Manning told NFL.com on Monday. “I talked to him all week, saying ‘if teams want to double Hakeem (Nicks) and Victor Cruz and if that leaves you singled up, you’re going to have to play well.’ ”

Manningham finished with five catches for 73 yards, with 56 of those yards coming on the winning fourth-quarter drive.

Brady finished with 276 passing yards on 27-for-41 passing and a pair of touchdowns in the Super Bowl.

But it was a split decision for the Michigan Men. Brady, like Mesko, went home empty-handed, while Baas and Manningham stood amid confetti and celebrated their first NFL title.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.