Sunday, January 28, 2001

Former Bearcat becomes Giants' hometown hero




By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Garnes
NFL.com profile
        TAMPA, Fla. — Giants safety Sam Garnes came to the University of Cincinnati because he knew he could play there right away.

        He left after the 1996 season as the Bearcats' fifth-leading tackler and tied for their single-season interceptions mark at six.

        Surprisingly, as a fifth-round draft pick, Garnes repeated his immediate college success in the NFL. He has started at safety from the first day of the 1997 season.

        He has started 57 of 58 career games, and like his teammates on the Giants defense, Garnes has raised his game to a higher level in the postseason.

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        In the Giants' 41-0 NFC Championship Game victory over Minnesota, the strong safety intercepted Daunte Culpepper in the third quarter and knocked down a pass intended for Randy Moss in the end zone in the first quarter.

        Garnes, 6 feet 3, 225 pounds, was long known for his tackling ability, but his proficiency in pass coverage is relatively new and means he no longer is taken out on third down.

        But Garnes, like his teammates, is humble.

        “The best thing of our defense is that we have 11 guys out there who can start anywhere in the league,” he said. “Coach (defensive coordinator John Fox) put us in position to make the plays, and we've done it all year long.”

        In tonight's Super Bowl, Garnes could be one of the defenders trying to prevent Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe from making another game-breaking play.

        “We have to account for him,” Garnes said.

        Garnes, 26, who grew up in the Bronx, understands what a winning team means to New York. Even though he grew up a Jets fan, the Giants were his No.2 team, and he fondly remembers the Giants' Super Bowl victories after the 1986 and '90 seasons.

        “I always loved (coach) Bill Parcells and (linebacker) Lawrence Taylor and their defense,” Garnes said. “Those teams are so well-respected, and you can't win by trying to compare yourself to them. I don't think we are as good a team, because we haven't won the Super Bowl yet.”

        Garnes has done his part this season, recording 63 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.

        Playing in New York allows his family to see Garnes play, something his relatives couldn't do when he was in college at UC. It also allowed him to enjoy the Subway World Series won by his favorite team, the Yankees, over the Mets.

        He attracted media coverage because of his diehard following of manager Joe Torre's team.

        “I hope I'm getting attention because of my play, not because I'm from New York,” Garnes said. “New York fans love a winner.”

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