Here's the conference call with Hilliard, one of my favorite Giants receivers of all time. The man took an incredible amount of punishment, starting with a fractured neck vertebra as a rookie and continuing on with that vicious late hit by Brian Dawkins and beyond. But he always came back for more, sometimes in short order. Big heart. Huge heart.
Q: We asked David Tyree the same thing, but why was it important to you to retire as a Giant?
A: It was a no-brainer for me. I think I gave it a great effort, my best effort I should say, every day for my 12-year career. You know, being a Giant was obviously more special to me than anything in my professional career, with no disrespect to my four years in Tampa. If I didn’t have my start there, I wouldn’t have been a part of a great organization and playing with a number of great ballplayers and being able to play for the Mara family and the Tisch family.
Q: We know you are coaching in the UFL in Florida…could you ever see yourself coaching with the Giants?
A: I think that is completely up to the families that are running the business. You know, I’m doing the best I can now not to disrespect the craft. I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I’ve had an unbelievable experience in such a short time. I’m hoping that at some point I’ll have the opportunity to coach in the NFL for a number of years. I definitely would love to have that opportunity, but that’s not up to me at this point. I have to work as hard as I can, and do a good enough job to be considered.
Q: Are there one or two games, plays, or special moments that stick out in your career over others?
A: I think that my entire career has been special to me, and it’s hard to pick out just a couple moments. From the first drive during the second game of the year, fourth play when I got injured during my rookie season to being fortunate enough to play in the Super Bowl even though we didn’t close the deal, and even how it ended as far as us parting ways. All of the moments I enjoyed I will cherish until the day that I die. Just being fortunate enough to be with those guys for as long as I could, it’s hard to pick out a moment.
Q: Ike, you took a beating and had some injuries, some were even serious at times. How do you feel physically as you reach the end of your career today?
A: I feel ok. I think had eight surgeries in my 12-year career, which was part of the reason I’m not playing today. Obviously after that hit from Leroy during that Sunday night game in ’08 in Tampa, I still have some nerve damage from that hit. I think it’s too much of a risk to your team, then and now, if you choose to play after that, which I’m not. To come back and play, I think, isn’t in the future. I still get some pretty bad burns and scrapes doing normal activities, but not enough to deter me from doing anything I want to do. I think it’s part of the game, and you know what you sign up for once you get into it. It’s all partly my fault because I didn’t fully prepare myself bodily wise, but I enjoyed myself and I’m doing ok.
Q: What brought you back from those injuries, some we probably never even knew about that you played through?
A: I just love football. Some people call me crazy, but that’s okay. I just think that you know what you’re getting into and I enjoy the physical part of the game. I just couldn’t deal with it very well as far as holding up and staying healthy throughout my career. I never shied away from the physical play, and I enjoyed everything about the game. Just the will to be out there with the guys, do the best I can, and make plays was really what motivated me to play as much football as I could, barring not having that opportunity to play because I was injured.
Q: When you look back at all those injuries now, the pain and suffering nerve damage, do you think it was worth it?
A: I wouldn’t change a thing, man, especially in terms of how I played the game. There would be so many things I look back in hindsight and say ‘I wish I would have done things a little bit differently’ in terms of how I prepared, some of the things dealing with the media and certain teammates, etc., but as far as what I left on the grass, I did the best I could on a quarter by quarter basis. Whatever is said about my career and whatever opinion people have, so be it. But as far as everything on the grass, I’m very comfortable with what I did.
Q: Tyree hinted that coaching is a ‘calling’ with long hours and a lot of preparation. Does that make you hesitant at all?
A: No. The beautiful part of the situation is that my wife is along for the ride. She is very understanding and committed to what we are trying to do as a couple. We understand what comes along with the beast known as coaching. So we know that hours and hours are involved going into that craft that those hours are spent for a reason. It’s a big business, and there is a lot of money involved and we only get paid to get it right. We’d be doing a disservice to the guys who show up prepared if we didn’t.