By Jean DePlacido
Wayne Lucier may be a former New York Giant, but the one-time St. John's Prep football captain was always a Patriot fan until then. So it's only natural that he'd have mixed feelings about tomorrow's Super Bowl XLVI between the two squads in Indianapolis (6:29 p.m.).
Because many of Lucier's former coaches and teammates are still with the Giants, the seventh round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft has a soft spot in his heart for them.
Lucier was chosen by the Giants that year in a class which included two current players: defensive end Osi Umenyiora and tackle David Diehl.
"The Giants have a lot of family orientation, much like the Patriots," said Lucier. "Many of the coaches, training staff and equipment people are the same as when I played for them. In fact, I talked to one of the trainers, who has been with the team for the last 30 years, the other day and he told me it's all the same guys.
"I think it's going to be a great game. Will it be high scoring? That's hard to say, but I think the Patriots have to score a lot of points to win, and Tom Brady will have to play better than he did against the Ravens (in the AFC Championship). That will be harder to do because the Giants defense is playing so well. I think it will come down to the Pats' offensive line. They will have to protect Brady and give him time to throw or else they're going to be in big trouble with the defensive pressure from the Giants."
The former guard and center knows all about protecting the quarterback. Lucier played for New York from 2003-05 before being released. He was picked up by Green Bay, but an injury ended his career for good in August 2006.
A young Eli Manning took over at quarterback for the Giants in 2005 after head coach Tom Coughlin benched veteran Kurt Warner, and Lucier has been impressed with the way he has matured since then.
"Eli has always been a great in the fourth quarter, even back in his college days," said Lucier, who was a key member of the 1997 undefeated St. John's Prep Super Bowl champions. "He's having his best season ever this year and has been consistently good, cutting way down on turnovers.
"Three of the five starters on the Giants O-line were there when I was. Diel, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzi played with me. McKenzie's first year was when I left, but I still see him quite a bit because he comes into one of my Dunkin's (Lucier owns four Dunkin' Donuts franchises in New Jersey). Whenever I see him we sit down and talk for 15-20 minutes. (Running back) Ahmad Bradshaw was just coming in when I was leaving, too. I crossed paths with a lot of their guys, and Coughlin was my coach the second and third years."
Lucier said Pat Flaherty was his offensive line coach and Kevin Gilbride was the quarterback coach at that time. Gilbride is now the Giants' offensive coordinator.
"Kevin had been a head coach and was from Connecticut, so we talked a lot," said Lucier. "Coughlin is a good offensive coach, and Gilbride is very smart too, so they'll figure out how to score points. Of course, the Patriots are the same way; they have great coaches.
"I think the Giants will be able to score on the Pats' defense. They are built to put up 21-28 points each game, and Manning's play action pass off the running game is effective. The Patriots will have to run the ball at bit to keep the Giants honest and off Brady. That's why I think it is going to come down to the Patriots offensive line; they have to hold up to give Brady time."
Despite the oddsmakers, who have the Pats listed as a slight favorite, Lucier believes it is an even game.
"I see it as a pick'em — with neither team favored," he said. "Tom's record in domes is unbelievable, but I think if you're a Patriots fan you want them to torch the Giants early and not leave it up to Manning at the end, because that could turn into another one like the last (Super Bowl)."
Lucier says his whole family has switched their football allegiances back to the Patriots now that he's out of the NFL.
"I have to hear it from them all the time," he laughed. " I used to be friends with a couple of Colorado guys on the Patriots, but the only one I really know now is (offensive lineman) Dan Koppen because he was Brian (St. Pierre's) roommate at BC, and he won't be playing because of that (ankle) injury.
"Still, I can't root against the Patriots because they were always my team — but I have to lean toward my old teammates."
He retired in 2007 after being injured and cut by Green Bay. Although a few teams expressed interested on '07, Lucier did not want to move to another part of the country and start over.
"It's real world time now," he said. "I have no regrets; playing in the NFL was a great experience, but I like what I'm doing now. My Dunkin' Donuts business keep me very busy."