The man who traveled the furthest with the ball on that 87-yard play from the 1958 championship game was receiver Kyle Rote, who caught the pass and went 52 yards before losing the ball on a rare fumble. Rote was a big-play receiver for New York. His mark of 48 receiving touchdowns held up as the team record for 47 years, until Amani Toomer exceeded it in 2007.
Rote got his first national recognition as a junior at Southern Methodist, when he substituted for All-American Doak Walker and nearly beat the heavily favored Notre Dame single-handedly. In his senior year, Kyle was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. The Giants nabbed him as the bonus pick at the top of the 1951 draft.
As a rookie, the running back tore up his knee in training camp and played little. He showed promise in his second season, but then he tore up his other knee in 1953, and his career as a running back was over practically before it began. Tom Landry noted how well Rote ran pass patterns, though, and suggested Kyle switch to end. That move rescued his career. Rote was slow but shifty, with great moves and hands.
Rote would play in four Pro Bowls. He had his greatest years at the end of his career, when Allie Sherman began to open up the offense. Rote caught the most passes of his 11-year tenure as a Giant in his final season, with 53 in 1961. He finished as the all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards for the Giants. He was an intelligent, talented man who was so universally admired by his teammates that many of them named sons after him. After retiring as a football player, he had a long, successful career in broadcasting.
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In 1938, the Giants were the Eastern representatives in the NFL title game for the fourth time in six years. They allowed the fewest points in the league by a wide margin, and they scored the second most. They had beaten the top-scoring Green Bay Packers just three weeks before. Yet the Packers were favored in this game on the strength of their spectacular passing offense and the sheer size of their line they outweighed the New York line by an average of 10 pounds per man.
The championship game was an exciting, hard-hitting contest in which the teams moved up and down the field despite having had their stars flattened. Mel Hein, who never missed a game in his career, sustained a concussion. Johnny Dell Isola and Ward Cuff had to leave the field. Of most significance for Green Bay, Don Hutson who had missed the regular-season game against New York with a knee injury reinjured the knee and limped off early in the second quarter.
The Giants took the lead early when end Jim Lee Howell blocked Clarke Hinkle’s punt. Four plays later, Ward Cuff converted a 14-yard field goal. Just four minutes after that, Jim Poole, the Giants’ other end, blocked a punt by Cecil Isbell, and the Giants had the ball at the Packers’ 28-yard line. A series of runs culminated with Tuffy Leemans’s six-yard cutback for the touchdown. Johnny Gildea missed the extra point, but New York had a 9-0 lead at the end of the first period.