Leadership/Management

Super Bowl Champion David Tyree Shares Lessons Learned Before The Helmet Catch

The way New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree saw it, dropping two balls added up to a “failed practice” for a player good enough to make it to the NFL. In the practice session leading up to Super Bowl XLII against the New England Patriots, Tyree dropped five. 

That’s bad news coming on the eve of a Super Bowl, but Tyree’s teammate and quarterback, Eli Manning, turned what Tyree believed to be “the worst practice of his life” into a leadership lesson. Recalled Tyree, “Sometimes you have a bad day, and if we don’t take time to breathe life back into the person having that bad day, we might lose the inextricable value they contribute. After practice that day, Eli approached me and said, ‘I know you’ll be ready.’”

Tyree says Manning’s leadership in that moment allowed him to “reset” his clock and, a mere 24 hours later, reconnect with Manning for what has become one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. Trailing 14–10 with 2:42 remaining and the game in the balance, the Giants faced a crucial third-and-5 at the Giants’ own 44-yard line. Avoiding several close sack attempts, Manning connected with Tyree who pinned the ball to his helmet as he fell to the ground, completing the pass and keeping the drive alive and ultimately allowing the Giants to score and win the game 17–14.

Tyree’s “helmet catch” immediately went down as one of the iconic moments in Super Bowl lore—and it likely wouldn’t have happened had Manning and Tyree not “connected” earlier as colleagues and teammates.

Great athletic feats such as this are what Super Bowls are made of, but behind such feats are unseen examples of leadership that create the conditions for them to happen. In this podcast, Tyree, the owner of DT3 Enterprises, shares the leadership tips he developed both in professional sports and as a leadership development coach.

These include:

• Using transparency as the “draw bridge” to trust and transformation.

• Keeping the focus on what unites us by understanding your teammates. 

• Building “an endurance mindset” within your team through continuous learning.

That moment in the Super Bowl wasn’t just Tyree’s moment. Manning had worked through his own struggles to arrive there as well. “But I think we had this chemistry because there was trust,” said Tyree. “And that was the beautiful nature of our relationship that really doesn’t get talked about. He let me know he knew I’d be ready. So we got it done.”


Don Yaeger

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.

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Don Yaeger

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