Mark Bavaro remains a much-admired legend among New York Giants teammates, coaches and fans of the 1980s and 1990s for his violent playing style, All-Pro ability and nearly mute approach to public relations during his playing days. They didn’t call him “Rambo’’ then for nothing, even though he hated the nickname.
Bavaro was a two-time All-Pro on the Giants’ first two Super Bowl champions and so dominating that 49ers’ head coach Bill Walsh labeled him at the time “the best tight end in football.’’ After an All-America career at Notre Dame he entered the NFL more as a blocker than a receiving threat but quickly proved he was both…and with an ornery streak to go with it that would make him a Giants’ legend.
A fourth-round draft choice in 1985, Bavaro became an immediate starter on a veteran team ruled by a defense led by Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Carl Banks, Harry Carson and, of course, head coach Bill Parcells. He would start for six years before a degenerative knee injury forced him to sit out the entire 1991 season.
Released by the Giants the following July, Bavaro signed on with Bill Belichick in Cleveland before finishing his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993 and 1994. By the time he was done, Bavaro had left the kind of impression that has earned him inclusion in the Giants’ Ring of Honor. All that led to that began, one could argue, on October 13, 1985, the sixth game of his rookie season.
Bavaro visits the Talk of Fame Network this week as part of our “5 Games’’ podcast series to discuss why that date was important and recalls four other significant games in his career. They will include his two Super Bowl victories, the night he carried half the 49ers’ defense on his back, a day of violence against the Philadelphia Eagles that illustrated how much he hated Buddy Ryan and, today, his breakout 12-catch game his rookie season that began it all.
After having made an immediate impression with his willing and often crushing blocks for a team built around its suffocating defense and pounding, ball-control offense, the Giants’ passing game suddenly erupted in Cincinnati. Mark was in the middle of one of Phil Simms’ biggest passing days after having caught only four passes in his first four NFL games. He entered the Cincinnati game still worried about keeping his job. In this week’s first “5 Games’’ podcast Bavaro relates how surprised he was at what happened that day and why it came not a minute too late.
“I had no idea (what was coming),’’ Bavaro recalled. “I was a rookie. I didn’t know what was going on. I dropped a couple passes against Green Bay and got benched. Don Hasselbeck finished the game. I wasn’t sure the next week if I had a job. Bill Parcells called
first offense’ at practice the next week and neither me nor Don moved. I wasn’t expecting to catch 12 balls but I knew I had to catch a couple to keep my job.’’
Bavaro did far more than that, hauling in 12 for 176 yards on a day where Simms threw 62 times for 513 yards. To hear why none of those numbers made an impression on Bavaro and to learn the rest of the story of his rookie season spent learning how to survive Parcells, LT and life in the NFL, listen to the full podcast at VoKalNow.com or by subscribing to our podcasts at iTunes: