PHOENIX (BP)–George McGovern, the New York Giants’ chaplain for more than a decade, has enjoyed this “year of surprises where we’ve won games we were never expected to win.”
He’s also thankful that, off the field, there haven’t been any surprises.
“We haven’t had any major [negative] character incidents for at least two years, because we have a really high-character team,” McGovern said. “We don’t have any prima donnas. The guys have bonded well and worked as a cohesive unit.”
Still, there are no lulls in his ministry. “The team changes every year and the guys always have challenges up and down,” said McGovern, who first joined the team in 1996 after spending 14 years working in college ministry at Rutgers University.
McGovern’s outreach with the Giants, the NFC underdog in Sunday’s Super Bowl face-off with the New England Patriots, has included a weekly coaches Bible study, a regular presence with the team and a special time of worship and prayer at the team hotel either at home or on the road on the Saturday night before each game.
“We’ve been talking a lot about being an others-centered unit,” McGovern said of his emphasis this year. “About caring for others and helping others and bonding together. That can make up for a lack of star talent or what others may think about you.”
One reason his players have been pros in faith as well as on the field is the family-first atmosphere which filters down from the highest levels of the Giants organization.
Like the Yankees, for whom McGovern also works, the Giants have been owned by the same family, the Maras, for long period of time -– spanning nearly 70 years to varying degrees. McGovern credited the family for always looking for high character in selecting the right players for the team.
Wellington Mara, son of the team’s founder Tim, passed away in 2005, but was a strong supporter of faith and morality with his team and in his life.
“The family always seeps down from the top to the coaches and players and all the work we do here,” McGovern said. “This has always been considered one of the best-run organizations in the NFL, because of Mr. Mara’s business of integrity.”
During his tenure with the Giants, McGovern has served with four head coaches who each have had a large impact on the amount of access he’s had with the players.
“The first year, I had Dan Reaves as the head coach and he was very supportive of the work I was doing,” McGovern said. “This is the fourth year with the current head coach and you have to build a level of trust and respect so they can see the real value of a chaplain’s work with the team.”
Among the things McGovern has done to help build trust and respect with the team is often joining (and sometimes winning) the regular chess games which take place in the Giants locker room.
He also took on another job this year which has endeared him to players and coaches alike: Like most NFL teams, the Giants take photographs of every play to help determine which plays worked, didn’t work and might succeed in the future. When the photos come endlessly out of the portable printer in the press box, McGovern is ready with a marker to note the down, distance and place on the field for every shot before handing it to an assistant coach.
“I’m sure it’s a job any 12-year-old could do, but it’s something I do to help out the team,” McGovern said.
It’s also allowed him to see the Giants coaching staff up close and personal as they watch the game unfold.
“The quality of the men and the amount of teaching they do is the best I’ve ever seen,” McGovern said. “We have six guys at our coaches Bible study each week and that just filters down to the team.”