Jason Pierre-Paul says he has a plaque on the wall of his home office that says “Beat The Odds.’’ Anyone, it seems, can purchase such a motivational reminder. Pierre-Paul has lived it.
And then some.
“I came back just to shock the world, just to prove that anything is possible if you put God first,’’ he said Monday from Tampa, Fla. “And I shocked the world.’’
Pierre-Paul came back from adversity that would have finished off many others. Make that most others. Yet here he is, battered around at age 32, in his second Super Bowl, nine years after winning one with the Giants in Indianapolis after the 2011 season. He is the leading sacker and one of the top defensive playmakers on a Buccaneers defense charged with finding a way, any way, to slow down Patrick Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl 2021 at Raymond James Stadium.
Pierre-Paul’s quarterback, Tom Brady, knows more about playing in a Super Bowl than anyone alive. Bucs tight end, Rob Gronkowski, knows his way around the big game as well. For so many of the Buccaneers, though, this is a first-time deal and the man everyone calls JPP is not taking it for granted.
“I told them, take everything in because tomorrow’s not promised, the Super Bowl is not promised next year,’’ Pierre-Paul said. “It took me nine years to get back to this point. Every year I played well, I played great, I put up numbers, I do exactly what I need to do to be a great player, to be an elite defensive end. But that’s not gonna get you to the Super Bowl. I’ve been talking to guys, I tell ’em, ‘Bro, this is a tremendous, tremendous achievement. So take full acceptance of it and know we worked hard to get to this point, and we earned it.’ We earned it.’’
That Pierre-Paul was so effective in his 11th NFL season is a testament to his resilience. He had 58.5 sacks in eight years with the Giants and has 30.5 sacks in his three years with the Bucs. He started all 16 games and led his team with 9.5 sacks. Pierre-Paul also had 55 tackles and a career-high two interceptions.
“Not only works hard in practice, he’s very vocal when we need it,’’ Buccaneers defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said. “When we were down at the half 17-0 to Atlanta the second time around he really brought the team together and really lit into ’em and lit a fire. Consequently we came back and won the game.
“With JPP in the game we expect him to make a big play. That’s the thing, any time, any given moment he can make a big play. He’s just a tremendous guy you want coming to the game with you on Sundays.’’
This is a tale of fortitude. Back in June of 2013, Pierre-Paul needed surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. A horrific fireworks accident on July 4, 2015 in Deerfield Beach, Fla. could have ended his career, as the blast permanently damaged his right hand — his right index finger was amputated and his thumb and middle finger were grotesquely damaged. He underwent surgery for a sports hernia in December 2016. With the Bucs, in May 2019 he was involved in a car accident that caused a cervical neck fracture that threatened his return to football. In June 2020, he had knee surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament.
“There are going to be people that say you can’t do it, because they can’t do it, but in reality if you put your mind to it and put God first, you can do anything you want to in life, no matter what,’’ Pierre-Paul said. “No matter how hard it seems, just don’t quit. It’s easier said than done but I never quit in anything in life I did, nothing, but that’s just me.’’
Pierre-Paul says he plays for his blind father, for Haitians everywhere, for his son and daughter. He says, “I haven’t got the respect I needed but I ain’t trippin’.’’
As for the game itself, JPP is not much into detailed breakdowns.
“I know one thing for sure, they’re gonna get a show Sunday, and they know it,’’ he said. “They know they’re gonna get a show Sunday from me.’’