INDIANAPOLIS — Things were a little bit different for Larry Izzo this time around.
A veteran of four Super Bowls as a player during his 14-year NFL career, Izzo is used to the spectacle of media day. He knows the drill, as players are paraded out in their uniforms so they can answer questions from the endless throng of reporters, TV cameras and anybody else who could conjure up a media credential for the Tuesday before the big game.
However, instead of a No. 53 jersey and football pants, Izzo wore a different uniform: a blue polo shirt and baseball cap. The former linebacker and special-teams ace — who spent eight seasons playing for Bill Belichick and the Patriots — is now an assistant special-teams coach for the Giants. On Tuesday, he stood in the corner of Lucas Oil Stadium, chatting with a few reporters, while the players were surrounded by all the chaos. In five days, he will cap off his first season as a coach facing his former team in Super Bowl XLVI.
"This is the Super Bowl. It doesn't matter who you are playing; you want to win the game," Izzo said, when asked about facing his former coaches and teammates. "You want to walk away with that trophy."
Izzo already has been a part of three teams who won Lombardi trophies, playing under Belichick and alongside Tom Brady during the Patriots' historic run from 2001-04. A coverage ace on both kickoffs and punts, he reached the Pro Bowl three times as a player and was considered one of the tougher players of his era to block. He also was one of the smarter players of the era, constantly spending extra time in meeting rooms and working with coaches and teammates. That fact made his transition into coaching an expected one for his former boss.
"Larry definitely talked about coaching in the latter part of his career. I'm sure he does a great job," Belichick said. "He did a great job as our special-teams captain with the younger players, and with the veteran players, for that matter. His example of toughness, dependability, preparation — he did an outstanding job.
"Of all the special-teams players I've been around, he'd certainly be at the top, both in terms of not only performance and production, but also leadership, dependability and total understanding of the kicking game."
The players now working under Izzo and his fellow New York coaches agree. Rookie LB Jacquian Williams — who led the Giants during the regular season with 17 special-teams tackles (nine solo) and had the unit's most important play of the entire year, a forced fumble on a punt in the NFC championship game — said, "Izzo is the special teams. He has a lot of confidence in what he does," adding that the coach loves to show video of his own play to teach the Giants' players. Quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan said that Izzo "brings the same tenacity and toughness and preparation that he showed as such a great special-teams player over the years" to his job as a coach.
As a player, Izzo reached four Super Bowls, winning three. Now in his first season on a coaching staff, he is hoping to add another ring to his hand. The coach's playing experience has already benefited his current players, as film study and teaching were keys, according to gunners like Williams. Now, as the Giants prepare for the biggest game of their lives, Izzo's experience may be profitable again.
"How to prepare is key, and I'll talk to the guys a little bit," Izzo said. "It's a long day on Sunday, the pregame, the halftime, so it's a little different to what a normal game routine is. I'm sure we'll cover all of that."
Things may be a bit different for Izzo in terms of the job he has. But come Super Bowl Sunday, with the Lombardi Trophy on the line, the former Patriot will do everything he can to ensure his Giants come home with the win.