Everyone remembers the Super Bowl XLII clip of Jeremy Shockey enjoying some adult beverages in a University of Phoenix Stadium luxury box. Shockey had a broken fibula and was probably celebrating the end of his career in New York rather than the Giants' victory.
He was not the only Giant out with a fibula injury that day. Mathias Kiwanuka fractured his left fibula in Week 11 of the 2007 season and watched the Super Bowl from the sidelines. Kiwanuka was in his second season with Giants out of Boston College and had 47 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble in ten starts before the injury.
But the memories he has from that season are bittersweet.
"It was tough being injured for the game," Kiwanuka says. "You don't come down with the team. You come down a little later in the week. You participate in the game day stuff, but you're not at Media Day. You're not doing a lot of the things that everybody else gets to do, so it's not same."
Shockey moved on to the Saints and won a Super Bowl title in his second year with New Orleans to experience that special moment as an active participant. Kiwanuka hasn't.
His chance comes Sunday after four up-and-down seasons. Kiwanuka gained a starting role in 2008 and lost it in 2009. Then there was the nightmare of 2010: His brother Ben was involved in a near-fatal accident after crashing a motorcycle Kiwanuka had bought him into a car. Ben spent three weeks in the hospital and credits Mathias for saving his life by applying first-aid techniques at the scene. Kiwanuka regained his starting job in training camp of 2010 but lost it to a potential career-threatening neck injury in Week 3 at which point he had already registered four sacks.
But 2011 has been a different story. His brother has recovered, and Kiwanuka started 15 of the 16 regular-season games. Now his team is back in the Super Bowl, and this time, Kiwanuka will run out underneath the bright lights with healthy legs come 6:29 p.m. ET.
Coach Tom Coughlin is aware of Kiwanuka's additional motivation.
"I think that's a great story," Coughlin says. "We all felt badly that Mathias couldn't participate in Super Bowl XLII. He was very, very upset about it on the sideline, obviously, knowing what he missed."
Knowing what he missed makes this week's festivities taste even better for Kiwanuka.
"It makes it so much sweeter cause I mean, that's been a goal of mine since we got off that field," he says. "One of my biggest goals was to be back in the Super Bowl and be out there on the field. Being out there when that confetti dropped, it was fun and it was exciting, but I was waiting for my chance to be out there with the team and I got it now."
The team could not be more proud of Kiwanuka. Fellow pass rusher Rocky Bernard believes Kiwanuka has gone the extra mile to accomplish his goal.
"It's a big thing for him," Bernard says. "He's worked hard and he probably always has that memory. He's really worked extra hard."
If reaching the Super Bowl was not enough in itself, Kiwanuka gets to play in his hometown. The Indianapolis native won three straight titles at Cathedral High School, where he played with games in the RCA Dome. His teammate then and later at Boston College was current Buccaneers offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood. That gives special meaning to having your big moment "hitting home."
"That's the surreal part right there," Kiwanuka says. "It's unbelievable cause I mean, as a kid, you dream about playing in the biggest game of anybody's life like this, but you don't ever expect it to be in your hometown, especially when you’re from Indianapolis, so getting this opportunity is great."
Beneath Coughlin's no-nonsense, fiery red glare, the coach has a soft spot for homecomings.
"The fact that he can come back and play in the Super Bowl and play in his hometown, I think that's a heck of a deal," the coach says.
Kiwanuka admits he has had this Super Bowl marked on his schedule for a long time now. Midwest cities are not exactly the most common Super Bowl destinations.
"I try to stay focused and take one game at a time like all the coaches tell you, but as soon as Indianapolis was awarded the Super Bowl, the light clicked in my head," he says. "That's an opportunity that might not come back around, so I got to take advantage of it."
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