When Tiki Barber visited the home of Wellington Mara in Rye, N.Y., to say goodbye to the Giants' patriarch the day before he died last week, one of the owner's grandchildren told Barber that Mara was disappointed Tiki hadn't gotten the carries at the end of New York's game at Dallas eight days earlier, an eventual overtime loss. One of Mara's favorite players, the Giants running back was summoned to the residence, where he clasped the sleeping man's hands and said a prayer. "It touched me in a way I can't articulate," says Barber. "I was blessed to be able to say goodbye and thank him for my career."
"If my father said it once, he said it a hundred times: 'Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball,'" said John Mara, the eldest of Wellington's 11 children, after the Giants honored the owner's memory with a win he would have loved, a 36-0 blowout of the rival Redskins. New York rushed for 262 yards, including a career-best 206 (second most in Giants history) by the inspired Barber. New York (5-2) took undisputed possession of first place in the NFC East, a division with four teams over .500.
On Sunday night Barber tried to explain what it was like to have the biggest game of his career after such an emotional week. "My prevailing thought all day was, How can I make him proud of me?" Barber said. "My mom leaves me a message before every game. She always says, 'Play proud.' With so much emphasis this week on upholding the legacy of Mr. Mara, making him proud was my extra motivation this week."
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