By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
He played on two Super Bowl-winning teams and was a starting linebacker of one of the great defenses of all time, but one of Gary Reasons’ favorite memories wasn’t a fourth-and-one tackle or a quarterback sack.
In fact, it didn’t even happen during the game.
Before Super Bowl XXV, Reasons, a Northwestern State star from 1980-83, had a feeling he was about to see something special, so he gave his hand-held camera to a New York Giants teammate and asked him to start recording the pre-game ceremonies. Thirty years later, he still has the tape and watches it regularly.
“I was literally five yards away from Whitney Houston when she sang the National Anthem,” he said. “I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ ”
Though he was an up-close witness to one of the most remembered renditions of the anthem ever – it came as the United States was entering the Gulf War in 1991 – Reasons isn’t lacking for other Super Bowl memories.
That Super Bowl in Tampa was the second for Reasons and the Giants. It’s also remembered for Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood missing a 47-yard field goal that would have won it for the Bills. Reasons and the Giants also won Super Bowl XXI, a 39-20 win over Denver in a game played in the Rose Bowl ending his third NFL season.
They were dramatically different games but earned Reasons the same result – a championship ring. “We treated both of those games like they were a business trip,” he said. “We did our job and got on the right end of things.”
According to Reasons, it’s almost a survival test just to get there. “For NFL players, the Super Bowl is the promised land,” he said. “Every player goes into the season with the same thoughts and goals. Just getting there is quite an accomplishment. You have to weather the storm of 17 games and get through the playoffs unscathed just to get there. That’s no easy feat. Those that get there and take care of business make them extra special.”
But the atmosphere at the Super Bowl isn’t quite what you might expect. “The actual game is a little anti-climactic,” Reasons said. “The conference championship games are when all the excitement and hollering comes from, because you know you’ve done it. Then comes the Super Bowl and you really get down to business.”
A three-time Division I-AA All-American at Northwestern State, and a 1996 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Reasons was a fourth-round pick by the Giants who stepped into one of the great defensive runs any NFL team has ever had. After losing to Chicago and the Bears’ famed Monsters of the Midway defense of 1985, the Lawrence Taylor-led Giants responded in 1986 with a defense that might have been every bit as good.
“That was our year; it really was,” Reasons said. “We had built the team up from 1984. In ’86, we pretty much steamrolled everybody and had a great season. A strong defense and an offense that was built on not making mistakes and just plugging along.”
New York was 14-2 in the regular season and allowed only three points in the two playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl.
Four years later, the Giants were back in the conference championship game at San Francisco. A 30-yard run on a fake punt by Reasons in the fourth quarter helped produce a 15-13 win.
In that Super Bowl against Buffalo, the Giants’ defense had to hold off the Bills and quarterback Jim Kelly on the final drive.
“As a defense, we were trying to keep a very powerful offense from moving down the field,” said Reasons, who was the game’s top tackler with six stops. “We accomplished that to a degree on that last drive and they had to set up shop for a 47-yard field goal that was probably at the top end of his range. Good for us it sailed to the right and we’ve got the ring to prove it.”
His advice to those Bengals and Rams playing in their first Super Bowl?
“Try to absorb as much as you can,” he said. “Don’t leave any stone unturned and be as prepared as possible. Those that are the best prepared are usually those who are going to win. Those that aren’t prepared are going to wish they had done things differently. If you have the talent, the skill and the game plan to make it happen, you can. Don’t get caught up in the hype. Make it a business trip.”
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