The pre-draft process can be grueling for rookies.
From the moment they take off their college jersey for the last time, they immediately start to train for the combine, all-star games, pro days, official visits with clubs, and a slew of other obligations – all with the goal of making it to the NFL. On Friday, the next leg of their journey commenced.
“It felt great, first day back,” said outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth overall pick in last month’s draft, after the first practice of rookie minicamp. “It was weird for me. The past six months I hadn’t been a part of a team. Now getting here, doing walk-throughs, doing indies (individual drills), doing everything, going back to being part of the team, it’s been fun. “
Yesterday, the Giants welcomed their 11 draft picks, 13 undrafted free agents, and a host of tryout players for what amounts to an orientation at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. It’s a time for them to get to know the coaches and vice versa as they acclimate to professional football. It’s also the first opportunity to put on their team’s logo, a moment that was not lost on Thibodeaux.
“You know, I put it on, but I felt like I’m not there yet,” said Thibodeaux, the first defensive player to earn unanimous All-America status in Oregon history. “I feel like there’s still some hoops and some hurdles. There’s still some prelims I’ve got to go through to be part of the team. But I don’t have words for it. It still hasn’t hit me. feel like it’s going to hit me once we really get into it. I heard some music and I almost cried. I said, ‘Man, we’re really here.’ “
Wan receiver Wan’Dale Robinson felt the same way.
“It was still a little bit surreal, finally on an NFL team, just being out there,” the second-round pick out of Kentucky said. “It was a really good practice, though.” [I’m] really just learning as much as I can with the playbook, just getting all the terminology down with my coaches and things like that. Just getting really comfortable out here, so when it’s time for a real practice, I’m really full speed and ready to go. “
While the coaches and front office members have gotten to know the draft picks intimately over the past five months, others have more ground to make up. But there’s always a diamond in the rough.
“I think you can see stuff in terms of the individual drills that you need to see, whether it’s a change of direction, quickness, it’s a little harder probably for the bigger guys,” coach Brian Daboll said of evaluating players invited on a tryout basis . “But this is something we’ve done for quite a bit. If there’s a guy out there that stands out, we’ll find them.”