For DeOssies, Son Knows Best

During his pre-draft visit with the Giants, Brown linebacker Zak DeOssie, son of Steve, the former Giants linebacker, took a tour of the team's locker room.

Once inside he called his father to ask where he dressed during his five seasons (1989-93) with the team. His father directed him to the stall directly across from where Lawrence Taylor used to dress.

"He said, can you feel the greatness coming out of [DeOssie's former] locker?" Zak DeOssie laughed.

Zak DeOssie, who dominated the Ivy League during a distinguished career at Brown, will get his chance to do more than sightsee. He was the team's fourth-round pick (161st overall) and immediately becomes one of their most important special team players because of his coverage and long-snapping ability.

"Go figure," Steve DeOssie said. "I knew with his Ivy League education he'd end up getting a good job somewhere. It just happened to be one of the best places possible."

Steve DeOssie, who played 12 seasons with the Cowboys, Giants, Jets and Patriots before ending his career in New England in 1995, was also a fourth-round pick (110th overall) by the Cowboys in 1984. He was a member of the Giants' Super Bowl XXV championship club.

"Football has always been a big part of my family's life," Zak DeOssie said. "I was old enough to remember his career before he retired when I was in the fifth grade. I was a ball boy for the Patriots. I know how these teams operate and what it takes to be successful."

The DeOssies will be the fourth father-son combination in Giants history, joining Joe and Barrett Green, Willie and Rodney Young and Don and Tim Hasselbeck.

"You do worry about it [the level of competition], but with this young man, because of his bloodlines, you worry less," said Coughlin, a Giants assistant when Steve DeOssie played in New York and a Boston College assistant when DeOssie was in college.

Rumors that the Giants or Patriots might draft DeOssie were rampant before the draft.

"Bill (Belichick) was here to watch Zak," Brown coach Phil Estes told the Hartford Courant. "I haven't had any coaches other than Belichick ever come to a game like that. Zak is the best linebacker we've ever had come out of here."

Steve DeOssie understands what seemed to make his son such an interesting commodity.

"We knew the work ethic and character of a young man was very important to both organizations," he said. "We knew it was a possibility. Tom Coughlin knowing Zak as well as any coach other than Belichick was certainly a part of the equation.

"In terms of athletic ability, he's a thoroughbred and I'm a Clydesdale."

Zak DeOssie caught some eyes when he posted eight tackles in the East-West Shrine Game. And he certainly didn't hurt himself in Indianapolis a month later.

DeOssie distinguished himself at the NFL combine in February with his speed and strength. His 4.58 40-yard dash was eighth-fastest among the linebackers. He lifted 225 pounds 26 times, fourth among linebackers. He was fourth-fastest in the three-cone drill that tests mobility. And he broad-jumped 10 feet, 2 inches – fifth-best.

"He had an outstanding workout at the combine," Giants GM Jerry Reese said. "And he's the biggest linebacker we discussed."

"Most guys Zak's size (6-5, 250 pounds) are defensive ends or linemen," Estes said. "Yet, you look at Zak's results at the combine and he was right there with the best linebackers in the country."

What made him even more appealing was his ability to long-snap, a skill which extended his father's career. He did all the long snapping for Brown this season and will eventually challenge veteran Ryan Kuehl, who has held the job since 2004.

"I focused on it during my senior year because I knew it was a great asset to have going into the draft," Zak said. "I figured, why not, my old man did it and it's just another opportunity to run down the field and make a tackle."

"Zak can cover," Estes added. "When you have a guy that big, that strong, he can plug up the middle and then run down and cover the punts."

Steve DeOssie said his son never asked him for helpful hints.

"Absolutely not," he said. "He basically taught himself in high school. He's tweaked the skill very slightly over the years and I tell him all the time when he wants to get really good at it, all he has to do is ask me. Brown needed someone to do it and Zak is always at the front of the line when his team needs something."

Other than that, Zak's father knows the similarities are not plentiful.

"He's more athletic than me," Steve said. "He's tall, lean, athletic, smart and good-looking. He's a different type of athlete. He looks like a young colt just getting his legs under him. Once he gets a feel for his size, he'll be even that much better. He loves football, absolutely loves it. He loves learning about it, finding ways to get the job done, loves the violence.

"I know that a kid can dominate the Ivy League and still be a step too slow [for the NFL]. But if you look at how he measured up at the combine, he was probably two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than any of the other linebackers. But he'll have to step it up, no matter what. But every chance he's had to do it in his career he has."
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