A Giant celebration of pure joyINDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Pierre-Paul stood alone atop the podium, the Lombardi Trophy gleaming in his right hand.
The NBC broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI had ended a few minutes earlier. The New York Giants, for whom Pierre-Paul plays all-world defense, had defeated the New England Patriots 21-17. Celebrating on the field below Pierre-Paul were his teammates, family and friends. All were waiting for a few minutes with the trophy -- waiting for the opportunity to snap the photo of a lifetime.
A national audience watched the initial trophy presentation, saw football's most famous faces on the screen and listened to the key speeches. And then, once the cameras stopped rolling, for another hour or so, the players lingered on the field, walked through the spilled red, white and blue confetti (a few of them made snow angels in the colorful paper) and waited for their few minutes on the podium.
This was Pierre-Paul's turn.
"Yo, yo," Pierre-Paul said quietly, getting the attention of the security guard standing a few steps below. The 23-year-old defensive end dangled the silver trophy in the space between them and said, "Hold this," delivering the trophy to the guard like it was a handoff in the backfield. The man looked down, surprised, but gathered the hardware in his arms.
Still in full pads, Pierre-Paul pushed down the stairs to the field. He walked gently behind an older man wearing his blue No. 90 jersey and slid his hands underneath the man's armpits. Pierre-Paul then guided his father, Jean, who lost his sight when his son was just a baby, back up the podium steps. When the two of them made it to the top, Pierre-Paul collected the trophy from the security guard and called for the rest of his family.
A family member took the picture.
"One more," Pierre-Paul called, waving up two more women. "Just give me one more."
Another flashbulb went off, capturing the moment: Pierre-Paul in the middle, his father to his left.
"All right," he said. "We're out!"
He passed off the trophy -- football's souvenir baton -- and said, "Let me just get my dad down." And then, Pierre-Paul, who's 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, walked backward, gingerly, taking each step as slowly as his dad needed, until the two of them reached the turf.
"Give him to me," said Pierre-Paul's sister, taking Jean's hand and leading him toward his wheelchair. Jason followed behind, still holding onto his dad's arms. The two siblings guided him into his seat.
"OK," Pierre-Paul said, looking around. "Who needs me?"
A Giants' public relations rep pointed him toward the tunnel. Postgame news conference, ASAP. Before leaving, Pierre-Paul turned around and said to his sister, "Where's my camera? You got the camera?"
There were nods all around: Yes, we have it. Pierre-Paul turned and walked off the field.
Sunday's game was the first time his father was in a stadium while his son played.
Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, who two years ago beat cancer, finally lifted the trophy an hour after game's end. He was inactive because of an ankle injury, but his smile was as wide as anyone's. When he passed off the trophy and walked down the stairs, a pair of soldiers from the U.S. Army stopped him.
"You're an inspiration," one of the soldiers said. Herzlich told the man he had it backward.
"You're the inspiration," Herzlich said. "Thanks for everything you guys do."
The soldier nodded and asked Herzlich to sign his seat cushion.
Chase Blackburn grabbed the game's only interception, in the fourth quarter, right in front of the Giants' end zone. Tom Brady had escaped the pass rush, then reared back and fired an ambitious down-field pass. Blackburn, who was signed by the Giants in the middle of the season, leapt into the air and came down with the ball, killing New England's momentum.
After the game, after the stadium had emptied, Blackburn was waiting for his turn with the trophy. He was holding his young son, who was wearing jeans and a blue, authentic "Blackburn" jersey. The little boy was crawling all over his dad, who was still wearing his pads and bleeding from a cut on his forearm. Finally, Blackburn turned to his family and said, "Will you hold him, please? I'm out of energy."
On Blackburn's left biceps is a tattoo that reads, "I've been blessed."
Brandon Jacobs was still sweating, too. His forehead was glistening as he gripped a red Sharpie and tried to sign the hats and T-shirts for Pierre-Paul's family members. A man walked by and told Jacobs he is "a beast," then paused to take a cell phone picture with the Giants' running back.
Jacobs kept signing for Pierre-Paul's family, all of whom were wearing No. 90 jerseys. Someone walked by and asked Jacobs about the game: How did the Giants manage to beat the Patriots?
"We hit them in the mouth," Jacobs said. "What else I got to say?"
Giants linebacker Greg Jones wasn't even near the podium. He was standing, still in full pads and cleats, in a small circle of friends. They embraced, took pictures and occasionally handed the phone to Jones. A few minutes later, Jones put a hand on his friend's shoulder and said, "Oh my god, I gotta take these shoes off."
He kicked off one cleat and then the other. The friend picked up the shoes. Jones was standing in his socks, in the middle of the field, when a man reached through the group and extended a fist to Jones. The man's Super Bowl ring caught the stadium lights, glistening.
"Way to go, champ," said Carl Banks, who won two Super Bowls as a linebacker with the Giants.
The two men gently touched fists, and then Banks wrapped Jones in a hug.
Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams and cornerback Prince Amukamara were two of the last players to leave the field. A few hundred die-hard Giants fans were leaning over the rails, cheering. Williams stopped, made his way to the railing, and peeled off one of his gloves. He gave it to a fan, who danced his way up the aisle in celebration. Then Williams turned back toward the tunnel. Amukamara jogged over to deliver some high-fives, then ran to catch up with his teammate.
Just as they were entering the underpass of the tunnel, Amukamara leapt onto Williams' back and raised his pointer finger. Williams caught his teammate and carried him off the field, laughing.
Kate Fagan is a columnist for espnW. You can follow her on Twitter @katefagan3.