Every New York Giants gives Jason Pierre-Paul nuff 'respect. He practically came out of nowhere to become one of the NFL's distinguished super heroes. He was born in Deerfield Beach, Florida to Haitian immigrants (his father is blind) who arrived from Haiti in 1983.
Six years later they had JPP, who would grow to be a strapping 6-foot-5, 278-pound, 23-year-old Super Bowl-winning defensive end and the most dominant defensive force New York has flossed since Michael Strahan.
JPP made all the right moves in getting to the pros in a very short time span and becoming a household name and a pride to his Haitian heritage. He was the perfect football player, but an imperfect decision-maker and it cost him on July 4th, 2015 when he decided to play chicken with a M-80. Four days later his world changed forever when his right index finger was amputated.
The course of NFL history was simultaneously altered due to split-second stupidity and from the looks of things, we may never see the old, omnipotent JPP again.
Boy how the Giants could have used a stop against Tom Brady in Sunday’s heart-wrenching 27-26 loss. The old JPP might have found a way to muster more than an empty stat sheet. One key tackle on third-down maybe ? One clutch sack ?
Is this a transition period? Or are we seeing the demise of a football god?
At Deerfield Beach High School, Pierre-Paul lettered in basketball for four years and ironically his football career was launched and his hoop dreams crushed after he suffered a serious leg injury while playing basketball. He was a late-bloomer as far as this football thing goes. JPP didn’t hit the gridiron until he was a junior in high school.
His rare combination of size, football speed, strength and athleticism, helped him quickly blossom and by the time he had paid his dues and dominated at College of the Canyons in California and Fort Scott Community College in Kansas (where he earned First-Team Little All-American honors) he was ready to move to high Division -1 comp at University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.
In 2009, an NFL-ready JPP played 13 games for the Bulls and totaled 45 tackles (16.5 for losses), 6.5 sacks, one interception and forced two fumbles. That was the official birth of the “Haitian Sensation.”
When Big Blue stunned the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl in the 2011 season, JPP had 16.5 sacks and made a Pro Bowl in just his second pro campaign, after being selected as the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by Giants GM Jerry Reese.
After fighting injuries and turnover throughout the 2012 and 2013 seasons and recording just 8.5 total sacks, JPP came back with a bang last season, recording 12.5 sacks. JPP was in line to cash in on some serious cheddar whether it be with the Giants or another NFL team and as one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL (a position on par with QB on offense as far as defensive team value goes) he was going to get a contract fit for a QB-hawking king.
The future was brighter than a 1000-watt light bulb and this past offseason was supposed to be JPP’s most lucrative and career-defining moment. Instead, it became a most unfathomable offseason and an experience of enlightenment that he surely didn’t know was coming.
After blowing his hand to smithereens, JPP is lucky to have a job with the Giants, but the accident costs him millions and aside from money, he’s now disabled.
When the incident occurred, JPP was very on the down low about the situation. He didn’t do any interviews and wouldn’t even return calls from the Giants initially. He kept everyone in the dark and we all know he did it for several reasons. He didn’t want to expose the severity of the injury and have to deal with the media circus of pictures and photos and comments that it would instigate. He also didn’t want to get released altogether and lose out on signing the one-year deal he eventually did sign on October 27th. He played a cat and mouse game with Football Nation and at least he has a job, so he came out on top.
Now, JPP must figure out how to be productive again with a permanent mitt on his right hand. Many people dismissed the transition period he would have to go through; no longer being able to use a body part that he had always taken for granted in the execution of his football duties.
JPP was adamant about not letting anyone peep his hand, but confidently expressed the belief that he'd return as the same player he was last year.
You had to figure, at least initially, it would affect his tackling. After two games this season, JPP has made very little impact and has two tackles. My man Jason Vives tells me that JPP doesn’t need his hands to rush the passer, apply pressure and make things hectic inside the pocket for opposing pigskin slingers. Problem is, I’m not really seeing much of that either.
I understand that we have to give the brother some time. To some degree it has to be like learning to ride a Harley Davidson all over again, but the Giants will have some very tough decisions to make at the end of the season if JPP continues to struggle. It’s nobody’s fault but JPP’s that he’s in this predicament so the Giants don’t owe him any loyalty. He wasn’t injured on the field of glory. In fact, he’s been the brunt of some insensitive memes and tweets by a warped social media clique which has once again trivialized someone’s darkest moments into a 160 word ill-conceived comment.
If he figures out a way to be dominant again, the naysayers and jokers will be oozing lumps of doo-doo brown respect. If this is the type of production the Giants can expect going forward, they may have to chalk the “JPP Experience” up to one of the greatest avoidable tragedies in Giants football history.