Editor’s Note: The thoughts below, as well as the feature “The Unlikely Champions”, are by producer Nick Mascolo. The piece can be seen on NFL Films Presents at the following times this week:
- TODAY Wednesday 9/12 at 2:30 pm/ET on ESPN2
- FRIDAY 9/14 at 4:30 pm/ET on NFLNetwork
- Saturday 9/15 at 1:30 pm/ET on NFLNetwork
“Unlikely Champions” is a feature that celebrates the 2011 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, but with a twist. A few years ago, senior producer Keith Cossrow came up with a novel feature idea – a retelling of the championship team not centered on its star players, but instead focused on the guys with the best, most intriguing football stories. So this season, we bring you the inspiring tales of three Giants who beat the odds to become Unlikely Champions.
This year’s installment features Chase Blackburn, Bear Pascoe and Devin Thomas. Each player followed a unique path filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, along with some lucky breaks. Blackburn was a backup linebacker for six seasons in New York before becoming a casualty of the 2011 salary cap. He started last season out of the NFL altogether, living in a hotel with his son and pregnant wife while waiting for the phone to ring. As you’ll see in the bonus clip below, the struggles of an out of work NFLer are very real:
Devin Thomas burst upon the college football landscape in 2007 as a do-everything wide receiver/returner for the Michigan State Spartans. After spending two years at Coffeyville Community College (a junior college in Kansas) Thomas transferred to MSU where he set four school records during his junior season. The second received chosen in the 2008 NFL Draft, Thomas planned on helping revive the Washington Redskins. But in early 2010 following two dismal seasons, Washington cut ties with their highly touted wideout. Thomas then spent six weeks in Carolina before landing in New York to finish the 2010 season. When Thomas returned for Giants camp the last year, he was met with even more adversity:
McKenna “Bear” Pascoe is another amazing story of perseverance. A former high school quarterback who converted to tight end at Fresno State, Pascoe was drafted by the 49ers in 2009. But the California kid’s dream scenario of playing pro football in his home state quickly disappeared when San Francisco cut Pascoe in training camp. Luckily, he signed with the Giants, worked hard and hung around long enough to earn a shot when players ahead of him went down with injury. His path came full circle last year in the NFC Championship when Pascoe returned to San Francisco, caught his first career touchdown catch, defeated his former team, and went on to become a Super Bowl champion. But few know that Pascoe had been a champion once before…in rodeo roping. Bear grew up on a ranch where roping cattle was a way of life. When he was 15 years old, Pascoe won a roping event where the grand prize was a Dodge pickup truck that he stills owns today. In fact, Bear believes his love of rodeo roping has helped him become a better competitor on the football field:
By celebrating these Unlikely Champions we are not overlooking the obvious importance of players like Eli Manning, Justin Tuck or Victor Cruz. We’re just letting you know that there were some long shots on last year’s Super Bowl squad that played valuable roles in New York’s championship run. Would the Giants have won the Super Bowl without them, who knows? It takes a lot of little contributions to win or lose any football game, much less the Super Bowl. The one thing we know for certain is that these guys never gave up on their dreams and – unlikely as it seems – they will forever be champions.