Plaxico Burress had two long and lonely years to think about the night that changed his life.
On Friday, November 28, 2008, fresh off a Super Bowl upset for the ages, the New York Giants' star wide receiver suffered an self-inflicted gunshot wound to his right thigh while partying at the New York City nightclub, LQ. The following Monday Burress turned himself into NYPD custody.
Ten months later, after being cut by the team for which he delivered a Super Bowl, Burress was sentenced to two years in prison for two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and one count of reckless endangerment. Suddenly, he had not only lost his dream, but also his freedom.
"Everything just happened so fast," Burress said in his first interview with NFL.com since the ruling. "To go on the other side of that wall, and be on the inside of that fence, knowing what your world and your life is supposed to be like on the other side. And when they close that door behind you, you say to yourself ‘Is this really serious?'"
"Everything that you had was just taken away from you. Just that quick. It was unexplainable."
During his incarceration, Burress was forced to battle the constant misery that comes from a good life spent wasting away. Isolated and troubled, the former-Pro Bowler credits those that supported him for keeping him afloat during the dark times.
"Tony Dungy reached out to me. A few guys from the Giants came to see me -- Brandon Jacobs, Osi Umenyiora, David Tyree, Gibril Wilson, Amani Toomer, Michael Strahan," Burress emotionally explained. "It was just good to see those guys. Me being in that situation, at the lowest point of my life, and to have those guys support me, it really meant a lot."
Two years is a long time to spend away from the game. Despite that, after being released from prison on June 6th, the soon-to-be 34-year old says he didn't doubt for a second that he would one day resume his dream of playing in the National Football League.
"At no time did I ever think my career was over. I was destined and determined to get back," Burress said. "Where else would you rather be on NFL Sundays than coming out of the tunnel to perform in front of millions of people?"
Time will time whether Burress' wish will come true. Though, it likely could not have come at a better time. Without question, Michael Vick's post-incarceration resurgence during the 2010-2011 season will stick in the minds of general managers questioning whether to take a flyer on the 6'5" former-standout.
But until then, Burress is treasuring his renewed sense of freedom, and trying desperately to make up for lost time. Immediately after being released, the beloved father and husband rejoined the family that he had missed so desperately.
"It was an out-of-body experience going through everything," Burress passionately explained. "And just to walk out of that gate and be a free man, it was a feeling that I can't even put into words."