Giant title for pro Wildcat

Jake Simpson

By Jake Simpson

The Daily Northwestern

No Northwestern alumnus kicked off 2008 better than New York Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield. The second-year pro started for the New York Giants and helped lead the team to an improbable 17-14 upset of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Cofield is the first Wildcat to start for a Super Bowl-winning team.

Just two months after the biggest win of his life, Cofield talked with sports editor Jake Simpson about being a Super Bowl champion only two years removed from NU football.

Daily Sports: What is it like to be a Super Bowl champion?

Barry Cofield: It’s been a whirlwind, lots of different emotions. It’s hard to explain, but when you win, you’re almost numb. It doesn’t settle in until you go home, to your high school and your college, and people tell you how proud of you they are. Those are the most rewarding moments. It’s just a great feeling, a dream come true.

Daily: Many people expected the Super Bowl to be a coronation for the Patriots and Tom Brady. Did that fire you up even more?

Cofield: Not so much. The season (the Pats) had on offense was probably the best ever. I think Tom is a great guy, a great player, and I have a lot of respect for him. On that stage, you don’t need too much extra motivation. If you’re not motivated to give everything you’ve got in the Super Bowl, there’s something wrong with you.

Daily: The first play of the Super Bowl, you got to Brady and knocked him down. What was that like?

Cofield: It was a great tone-setter. Brady knowing he’s gonna be hit, it was a great feeling. At the time, it was just football, but when I look back at the pictures and people tell me, “That was a great play,” it sets in. I realize it was special. Just like at Northwestern, we surprised a lot of people.

Daily: During the playoffs, was there ever a point when you stopped and thought, “Wow, this is incredible”?

Cofield: It’s hard to do that while you’re in the game. When (David) Tyree made the catch on his head, we couldn’t even see it from the sideline. The one time maybe was at the end of the Dallas game. They had beaten us twice, and we were able to beat them on their home field. After we overcame (them) and got that win, I exhaled. I really believed for the first time. I thought, “If we can beat these guys, we can beat anybody.”

Daily: This past season was your second in the NFL. How was your mindset different from your rookie year?

Cofield: It’s really a big jump from college to your rookie year, so one of the biggest strides you make is from your first to second year. Going into the second year, your focus is all on getting better as a professional football player.

Daily: You play on the same line as Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora and future Hall-of-Famer Michael Strahan. What have you learned from them?

Cofield: I’ve learned the most from them off the field, the way they carry themselves and the effort and drive they play with. They’re special talents. You can’t model your play on guys that athletic, but you can learn from the way they prepare. You can’t help but give your all when you’re lining up next to them. Those guys are big brothers to me; they’re great players and great guys.

Daily: What are your best memories from NU?

Cofield: My biggest and best memory is my teammates. The people I met there, they didn’t look down at you because you were an athlete; it was a pretty friendly atmosphere on campus. I met a lot of quality guys, friends that I’ll have for life. No matter what we were going through, whether it was winning only three games freshman year (in 2002) or being nationally ranked senior year (in 2005), we went through it together like a family.

Daily: Who were your mentors at NU?

Cofield: My biggest mentors were my defensive line coaches, Eric Washington and Jay Peterson. Both those guys were always there for me and always believed in me. (Defensive tackles) Colby Clark and Luis Castillo were also big influences on me. Luis went the year before me in the draft. I learned a lot from his experience – he told me a lot of what to expect from the combine and the other stuff before the draft.

Daily: Do you keep in touch with your old teammates who are also in the NFL, like Brett Basanez and Zach Strief?

Cofield: Yes.

Daily: Do you poke fun at them because you’ve won a Super Bowl and they haven’t?

Cofield: (Laughs) No, I don’t. It’s a great time for Northwestern. The last three years, a Wildcat has won the Super Bowl. Maybe those other guys can get one too.

Daily: How do you see yourself improving in the coming years?

Cofield: Well I’m only 24 years old, so I’m looking to get better and stronger with time. I’ve got two more years on my contract, and hopefully I’ll be a Giant forever. But wherever I go, I will always be representing NU.

Daily: Any predictions for next season? Another championship, maybe?

Cofield: That’s the plan, but I’m not gonna guarantee anything. We have the bull’s-eye on us this season, but if the ball bounces our way, why not another Super Bowl?

Daily: What would you say to the Cats today?

Cofield: Don’t ever quit. We gave up 80 points our first two games of (2005), and look where we ended up. If we can bounce back, then so can you.

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