Jason Pierre-Paul joins his fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneers in making history at Super Bowl LV in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, serving as the Big Game’s first host team to contend for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
For Pierre-Paul, it’s not just his team’s home field, it’s where he played college football for the University of South Florida Bulls’ defense.
Pierre-Paul played a single year as a defensive end at USF, transferring to the university located in Tampa as a junior out of Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. As ESPN reported back in 2010, Pierre-Paul made the decision to forgo his senior year and enter the 2010 NFL Draft. The New York Giants selected Pierre-Paul 15th overall in the first round and remains the highest-drafted player in USF history, according to the team’s official website.
The Giants eventually traded Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers in the 2018 offseason, along with a fourth-round pick in that year’s draft for a third-round pick and a later fourth-round pick, according to NFL.com.
Here’s what you need to know:
Jason Pierre-Paul’s Right Index Finger Was Amputated in 2015 After a Fireworks Accident
Pierre-Paul was named to the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s all-star game, in 2011 and 2012, his second and third seasons as a pro; he was also named a First-Team All-Pro in 2011, according to Pro Football Reference. On the heels of those two impressive seasons, he helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots — then led by his now-teammate, quarterback Tom Brady.
Following three more seasons, New York placed the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul in the 2015 off season, after the parties were unable to come to terms on a deal to keep him on the Giants roster, as NFL.com reported at the time.
Months later, news emerged that the star defender was “severely injured” in a fireworks accident while celebrating the Fourth of July. Days later, ESPN reported that Pierre-Paul had suffered injuries to both of his hands in the incident, and had undergone multiple surgeries, ultimately deciding to have his right index finger amputated.
While the injury was potentially career-ending, the ESPN report detailed that Pierre-Paul was still expected to play during the 2015 season, with an unnamed source saying his return to football would come “sooner than people think.”
Pierre-Paul went on to play in half of the Giants games in the 2015 season, re-joining the team’s active roster on November 7, according to NFL.com. According to the stats listed on Pierre-Paul’s ESPN profile, he recorded 26 tackles and a single sack, in addition to recovering two fumbles.
Jason Pierre-Paul Broke His Neck in a Car Accident in May 2019
In 2019, Pierre-Paul was in a major car accident that left him with a broken neck. At the time, he was driving his Ferrari on a highway in South Florida when it spun out of control. According to ESPN, slick roads due to inclement weather may have been a factor.
Pierre-Paul didn’t play football for six months following his injury, but rejoined his team in October that same year.
“He’s kind of a freak of nature as far as healing,” coach Bruce Arians said after Pierre-Paul participated in some practice drills in October 2019.
Pierre-Paul is beyond ready for his second Super Bowl — and he hopes to bring home another W. He has remained positive through it all.
“Resilience to me is never giving up, being there for somebody when they truly need you and just being yourself even when it’s good times or bad times, you’re just the same person never changing. I done been through a lot man, but the things I go through, I just think those happy thoughts,” Pierre-Paul told the media ahead of Sunday’s Big Game, according to Sports Illustrated.
READ NEXT: Is Rob Gronkowski Going to Retire?