The teams wearing the blue-and-white uniforms have looked like imposters for the better part of a decade to the guys who once wore those colors most proudly.
Leonard Marshall was a Giants defensive end for 10 years and was an integral part of two Super Bowl champions, an anchor on a defense that included the likes of legendary linebackers Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks.
Ottis Anderson was a Giants running back for seven years and also played on two Super Bowl title teams, winning MVP honors for his performance in Super Bowl 25.
Joe Morris was Bill Parcells’ original workhorse running back, producing 35 rushing touchdowns in 31 games in 1985 and ’86 and helping lead Big Blue to its Super Bowl 21 title for the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
Those three players, along with former running back Rodney Hampton, longtime head trainer and current head of medical services Ronnie Barnes as well as deceased former players Kyle Rote and Jimmy Patton will be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honor on Sept 26, when the Giants play host to the Cowboys.
Marshall, Anderson, Morris and Hampton were all invited to Tuesday’s practice by the team under the false premise that they were there to speak to the current players, and they were surprised on the field by Giants co-owner John Mara as he informed them they were part of the 2022 Ring of Honor class.
Marshall, Anderson and Morris all still make their homes in New Jersey and have been pained by the state of the franchise they once proudly led to much more success than it’s seen in too long.
Five consecutive seasons without a playoff berth. Eight losing seasons in the last nine. One playoff game in the last 10 years.
“Oh man, it’s been tough to watch, I’m not gonna lie to you,’’ Marshall, 60, told The Post. “There’s been something wrong, a disconnect. I know the Mara family and I know their heart. I know the intent of those people.’’
Somewhere along the way, heart and intent lost its way since the Giants won their fourth Super Bowl after the 2011 season.
“It has been hard at times,’’ Morris said.
“It’s hurt to see what’s gone on the past few years,’’ Anderson said.
The 65-year-old former war-horse running back looked around the field house and pointed to the four huge championship banners hanging from the walls and said, “You’ve got four championships here and that means something. And when you see what you’ve been seeing for the past few years out there on the field, it hurts. You wonder: Why is it like that, and what did we need to do?’’
There’s a universal feeling among the newest Ring of Honor players that the Giants did what they needed to do when they hired general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, that they got it right this time.
“With Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, it just feels like my era of football,’’ Marshall said. “It feels like their heart is here.’’
What is about this regime that makes it feel right?
“They’re football men,’’ Marshall said. “It seems like they eat, think drink, sleep Giant football. They’re not afraid of the challenge.’’
Anderson said while watching the Giants the past several years he’s had a constant sense of “hope — H-O-P-E, hope.’’
“Hope that we can finally get someone in there who is respectable, someone who’ll bring back the tradition of what Giants football is,’’ he said. “That’s what I’ve been hoping for.’’
He believes his hopes have been answered with Daboll.
The 61-year-old Morris, who played for only two head coaches in his Giants career, said when he was a player he was “used to continuity, where you get better and build toward something.’’
Daboll is the Giants’ fourth head coach since 2016, not including interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who took over for Ben McAdoo to finish out the 2017 season.
“I just wish we had some consistency,’’ Morris said. “That’s what we’re trying to get with Brian here now.’’
Marshall spoke of how he “yearns’’ for the Giants to become winners again.
“I still live here,’’ he said. “Many of my neighbors know I spent my lifetime working here. They know how much respect I have for the organization and the fans. I bleed blue. When the Giants lose, I lose.’’
As those former Giants greats were introduced to the current players on the field after practice, you couldn’t help but wonder if there’s a single player among the 80-plus still on the roster who’ll one day be worthy of joining the likes of Marshall, Anderson, Morris and Hampton in the Ring of Honor.