It took the words of a very special child to remind the Giants of how they're capable of playing. And sure enough, that special child, 15-year old Adam Merchant, was rewarded with a chance to witness his favorite NFL team put on one of its best performances of the season in person.
Merchant, who was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, came to the team's attention through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The youngster and his family were guests of the Giants at their practice last Friday, and afterwards, head coach Tom Coughlin invited the young man to speak to the team in its post-practice huddle.
"The message was loud and clear," Coughlin said. "We had Adam in the locker room after the game as well and had him in the middle. Guys were very appreciative that he was here and really what he said was most meaningful. We picked up on that and that's basically the challenge that we kept throughout the weekend and in our Saturday night meetings.
And just what was the message Merchant, whose cancer is in remission, delivered?
"Play like World Champions," he said after the game, where he sat alongside of defensive end Justin Tuck in the locker room, sporting a Jason Pierre-Paul jersey.
Merchant's message and story touched every player and coach, with players saying that after learning of the young man's courageous battle against cancer, they were inspired to go out and play championship football.
"Obviously the Make-A-Wish program is something," said quarterback Eli Manning, who threw three touchdown passes as part of his championship like performance. "We've had a number of kids and it's pretty special when you think about it. They've got one wish, and it's sad when you think about it, they've got one wish and what do you want to do? He wanted to come to the New York Giants practice and come to a game. He had the opportunity to come out and talk to the team, so Coach Coughlin does a great job and all the players do a great job of making him feel welcome and fired up."
Merchant, who said he was a little nervous at first to give the post-practice pep talk, said his brief but powerful speech "came from the heart.
"It's been amazing to just be around people who are my heroes. The huddle (was my favorite part), giving them the speech. It was thrilling. It was awesome," he said.
"I told him he needs to go into motivational speaking," said Tuck, who presented Merchant with his game-worn jersey which several members of the team signed. "He kind of woke us up a little bit."