A Conversation with Osi Umenyiora

A conversation with New York Giants second round draft pick Osi Umenyiora.

No one was surprised when the Giants selected a defensive end in the second round. When the name read at the podium was Osi Umenyiora, however, it might have caught some folks off guard. The Troy State product had put up some big numbers in college, but wasn't expected to go quite that early. But the Giants were hot on his trail, and GM Ernie Accorsi's style is to go after the guy he wants regardless of round. The Giants did and now, Umenyiora, who's full first name (Ositadinma) means "From today, things will be good" in Igbo, is prepping to start his career. Weeks after players were no longer required to be at Giants Stadium to work out Umenyiora was still showing up on a daily basis.

Q: How have your first couple months in New York been?
It's been nice. I don't think there's anything better than being a Giant. The support of the fans and the whole organization, it's been a whole lot better than I expected it to be. You hear the stories about how they treat rookies. It's been nothing like that. Everyone's been cool to me so it's been good. It's really nice the way the veterans act toward the younger players. They really teach you how to do things. Like if you do something wrong, they'll tell you how to do it. Even if you're competing with a veteran for a spot, they'll still help you. It's real nice to see stuff like that happening.

Q: How much did you know about the Giants before you arrived here?
I was pretty familiar. I came here on my last pre-draft visit so I had a good idea of what it was like here. I talked to [DL] Coach [Denny] Marcin for a long time. I was pretty familiar with the situation the Giants were in.

Q: Did you expect them to draft you?
The Giants were in my top three. Since this was the last trip I took, it really left an impression on me. I was really looking forward to coming here. I was praying that they'd draft me.

Q: Who were the other two teams?
San Diego and Cleveland.

Q: When were you expecting to be drafted?
My whole frame of mind changed so much from November to April. After the season, I figured I was surely a top pick. Then I didn't get invited to the Combine and I was figuring I wouldn't go until the fourth or fifth round. Then after my pro day I was thinking I was going to be a top three pick again. My agent (Brian Mackler) told me the night before the draft that I'd definitely go in the top two rounds.

Q: Still what goes through your mind right after you're drafted into the NFL?
I was still surprised. Coach Fassel called and said he hoped I didn't turn my ankle tripping over a table. I still didn't know who it was. He said it was Coach Fassel with the Giants and that they were about to pick me up. I was like, oh, God. That was it. It was crazy.

Q: Why are you still here working out when almost all of your teammates (except Brandon Short and Tam Hopkins) are gone?
I have to get ready, man. They didn't draft me in the second round for nothing. They're expecting me to do something. I'm not going to let myself get out of shape or anything. I'm going to come in ready and focused.

Q: How did you feel you did during the mini-camps?
At first it was really tough. That playbook is very thick and it's totally different from what we did in college. After a while, with the help of the coaches and veterans, it got really easy toward the end. I got real familiar with everything at the end. In the beginning I was unsure where to go. But if you watch on film, toward the end everything was clicking and perfect.

Q: Could you give me an example of something that you picked up during camp?
Kenny Holmes helped me with something. When you're supposed to come under the offensive tackle, I used to line up real wide so the offensive lineman wouldn't know I was coming. But I wasn't getting there in time. In college, I could do it, but not up here. He told me to tighten down and that even if I had to give it away, I had to make sure I got into the gap I needed to. He told me to tighten down and take a quick, shorter step. I did and it worked.

Q: How has it been being teammates with one of your heroes, Michael Strahan?
As good as he is a football player, the knowledge he has off the field has been really good for me. It hasn't really been the on-the-field stuff that he's told me; it's been the off-the-field stuff like how to live and manage your money. On the field, Kenny Holmes has helped me a lot.

It's crazy to play with a guy like Michael. I just recently watched his 2001 sack tape from when he had all those sacks. When you see him in person, you can't imagine how good he is and how he's done all that he has. It's ridiculous how good he is.

Q: Why right end?
That's my preference, my strength and where I'm going to play. It's kind of odd for me because I'm right-handed. Most people who are right-handed prefer the left side. For me it's always been that side right there. In college, I had 16 sacks - eight from each side. It was split right down the middle. But when I got up here I felt more comfortable on the right side than the left side.

Q: How has your speed matched up so far on this level?
In college I used to just run around people because I could. I've been able to use my speed here, but it's not as easy. People here are smart, athletic and strong and they're not just going to let you run around them. I was talking to Mouse (OL Coach Jim McNally) the other day and he told me I had good speed. He told me to use my speed, use my speed and then bull-rush my guy. He said that would be effective. I'm just trying to channel everything everyone's been telling me.

Q: Any goals for this year?
I just want to play. It's going to be hard for a rookie to just step in. But a few rookies do it. Last year, [Julius] Peppers and [Dwight] Freeney did it. They came in and played extremely well. I think I can come in and play extremely well too. I'm not going to say that I'm going to come in and have 15 sacks. Of course I want to, but whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. I think I'm capable of doing such a thing.

Q: What are you expecting to happen at training camp?
Everyone's told me all kinds of stuff about how tough it is. I just have to get my mind mentally prepared. You just have to take it one day at a time and not think about how long is left to go. It is going to get crazy.

Q: How did you get to be a second-round pick by the Giants? On the field and off?
On the field we played big-time schools at Troy State and I was able to play well against those big-time schools. When the Giants came to work me out I was able to run a 4.6 flat on real bad grass. Plus I had the physical tools better than most people. That's probably why they picked me in the second round.

My background is a little different. I was born in London, then my parents moved to Nigeria. From there I went to Auburn, Alabama and I started playing ball toward the end of my 11th grade year. A Troy State coach came down, I went there and I started all four years that I was there. Now I'm here.

Q: Any closing thoughts?
Being here has been more than I expected to be honest with you. It's kind of been overwhelming coming to a situation like this. I can handle it though.

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