Christopher Slayton Jersey

When Giants wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert walked to the podium during coaches availability on Wednesday, it was expected the slew of Odell Beckham Jr. questions were going to come his way. But with him now on the Browns, Tolbert wanted to talk about who he actually will be coaching in the new season.

“I’m going to say this about Odell, I don’t want this to be an Odell Q/A,” Tolbert said affirmatively. “Odell was a great player for us, with the Giants. We all love Odell, we respect him as a player and wish him nothing but the best with the Cleveland Browns.”

For the Giants, though, it isn’t as simple as replacing Beckham in the offense this season. He had over 1,000 yards receiving in four of the last five seasons, and was Eli Manning’s favorite target when he was on the field.
But Beckham or not, Tolbert is confident with whoever is in his receivers room.

“Well, I believe in the group that we have in the room right now. I’m very, very confident in my coaching ability and I coach guys from all different ends of the spectrum and whoever we put on the field is going to be a contributing player for our offense. So it doesn’t matter who’s in the room. We’re going to coach him up to get him to play the best of your ability and will be successful with the guys we have in the room.”

As for who will take over Beckham’s workload, Tolbert wouldn’t say. Golden Tate may have filled his spot, but many are looking to Sterling Shepard to be the next man up. He did well in Pat Shurmur’s offense last season with 872 yards and four touchdowns on 66 receptions.

No matter the workload, Tolbert knows Shepard is going to step up to the plate and make the plays needed for the offense to be successful.

“I believe Sterling Shepard is going to be the best Sterling Shepard that he can be. 1,2,5,6 doesn’t matter what number receiver you put on it, he’s going to be the best Sterling Shepard he can be and that’s how we are going to approach it.”

What about the receiver depth? Is there anyone that can step up next to Tate and Shepard?

Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler will be back for the Giants this season, but there will be a keen eye on Corey Coleman — the former Browns first-rounder — who proved to be worthy for another season as well. Coleman did very well in the return game, but Tolbert will be tasked with unlocking his true receiver potential. He’s had issue with his hands, but the speed and cutting ability is naturally there.Coleman bounced from team to team last season, but that isn’t the case this offseason. Tolbert knows Coleman being with the team throughout the summer will see some positive results for a player he believes will make the best of his opportunity this year.

“It is a big opportunity, especially him being in the offseason program with us,” Tolbert said. “He’s getting the whole gambit if you will: from the very first install to the whole, you know, all the way through. Last year when he came in we were his fourth offense he’s been in, in maybe the span of 3 months. Now it’s just our offense the whole time so he can grasp what we’re doing and have a solid contribution.”

And finally, there’s fifth-round Darius Slayton, coming out of Auburn with blazing sub-4 speed, and at 6-foot-1, just screams deep-ball threat. At rookie minicamp, Slayton may have had the jitters to start, as he was seen dropping a few easy passes. But that comes with the transition to the NFL, and Tolbert sees a player that can be “explosive” for the offense if he can haul the ball in.

“His first practice, you know, he was trying to figure a lot of stuff out in the first half of the first practice, had a couple of drops, for the second half of that practice he made some good catches in traffic and had two good remaining days. So looking for explosive plays from Darius Slayton, he’s an explosive player who’s made a lot of plays, 21 or 22 yards a catch, something like that in college and I’m looking forward to him bringing that to the Giants.”

So, no, Beckham won’t be making one-handed grabs or drawing extra attention from defenses anymore. But that doesn’t mean the Giants’ receiving corps is in shambles. There are still good pieces to work with, including Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram who will see their fair share of targets.

“It doesn’t matter who is on the field because we call plays depending on who is on the field,” Tolbert said. “It didn’t matter who’s on the field. So, whoever is on the field, those guys are going to make plays for us.”

George Asafo-Adjei Jersey

People who get to know George Asafo-Adjei, the Kentucky offensive lineman known as “Big George” whom the New York Giants recently selected in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are affected by him.

A member of the Kentucky athletic department’s public relations staff told me the 6-foot-4, 306-pound Asafo-Adjei is a “big teddy bear.”

Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman went further.

“He’s a great human being. I mean a great human being. Not a good one,” Schlarman said recently by phone.

“He’s the type of guy if I wanted to take my wife on a trip I’d leave my four kids at home with him and I wouldn’t have to worry about them for a week.”Perhaps nothing illustrates the effect Asafo-Adjei has an people who get close to him better than his relationship with Kentucky President Dr. Eli Capilouto.

Capilouto is the 69-year-old leader of a major university. He’s white, let’s just get that out of the way. Asafo-Adjei is a 300+ pound football player born in the Bronx, with a hard-working mother who struggled to make ends meet for her family.

They have little to nothing in common, other than the reality that they crossed paths at Kentucky. Yet, the two struck up a friendship that Asafo-Adjei treasures. During Asafo-Adjei’s time at Kentucky, the two could often be seen walking around the university campus or having lunch together.

“Very different, very opposite looking human beings. That just shows you it don’t matter what you look like, it don’t matter who you are, what status you are. Respect is respect,” Asafo-Adjei said. “He had respect for me and I definitely had respect for him.“It was very special to me. I’m very grateful for him being open to me. It was a great experience. Me and him are still gonna be cool. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

Asafo-Adjei said his relationship with Dr. Capilouto began freshman year.

“He just took me in. I could just see that he cared about me and he always wanted to make sure I was OK. He always kept up with me. It helped a lot, just to be comfortable,” he said.

“I honestly think he just stopped by. He probably was hearing a lot of stuff about me in the media and whatever. He just stopped by and saw me. That’s really where it started and we just had a great relationship after that. We just built that bond and it kept growing.”

Personal journey

Asafo-Adjei hasn’t been reticent about discussing his background. Born in the Bronx to a hard-working mom who didn’t have much and, since they moved to Cincinnati when Asafo-Adjei was 7 or 8, has often worked three jobs.

“My mom works hard, she has worked hard since I was born. She has been working three jobs, literally three jobs every day,” Asafo-Adjei said after he was selected. “She probably gets 4 hours of sleep every day, we went through some rough patches in life, but we overcame thanks to God. He’s taken me out of that situation, and he has taken our family out of that situation. I’m happy for our blessings. I don’t have a father in my life, that’s been much harder as well. I thank God, God is good and he answers prayers.”

Perhaps that is why people like Dr. Capilouto have been drawn to him. Why he speaks so freely about wanting to make life better for other people.

“He’s a guy that could have very easily gone down the wrong path. But that’s not him. I don’t think George would have ever done that because that’s not in his heart,” Schlarman said. “He’s a great person. But, he had every reason to go down that path and he didn’t.”

Asafo-Adjei wants to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate.

“I want to give back to any poor countries and any poor communities around here. It’s eye opening to see those people don’t have anything, but they are the happiest people in the world. Anyone can take something from that, just seeing them struggle I want to give back to them so bad.”

Asafo-Adjei was selected as one of a handful of Kentucky athletes to make a trip to Ethiopia last year.

“Those people don’t have nothing, yet they’re way happier than us,” he said. “It puts perspective on things, that maybe we care a little too much about materialistic and what people think about us and those kinds of things. It definitely gives you a great perspective on life.”

Big George has a big chance

“I’m going in there to take a job,” Asafo-Adjei told media the night the Giants drafted him. “I’m going in there to make a name for myself.”

It is far too soon to know if Asafo-Adjei can do that. What we do know is that there is an opening at the position Big George will play — right tackle.

“He’s a big, powerful man. He’s got really good length. You can tell he’s a very physical style player,” said coach Pat Shurmur. “I think that’s important at the position.”

Shurmur said the Giants are “for sure” going to give Asafo-Adjei a chance to show he can play right tackle in the NFL rather than move him inside to guard.

Often, linemen drafted as late as Asafo-Adjei was (232nd overall) are considered developmental players. Guys who could use time on a practice squad to develop their bodies, their techniques and their understanding of the game before being relied upon to play. The next few months will show if Asafo-Adjei is one of them.

Schlarman believes that “Physically there’s no doubt that he’ll [Asafo-Adjei] be ready.”

How quickly he learns the playbook, his assignments, NFL techniques and adjusts to the speed of blocking NFL pass rushers will determine whether or not he makes the team and, ultimately, cracks the lineup.

“He’s off the charts in terms of his physical attributes,” Schlarman said of Asafo-Adjei, who ran a 4.9 40-yard dash and did 31 bench press reps at the Kentucky Pro Day. “His strength, his explosion, all those types of characteristics.

“I think if he would have gone to the combine and had those types of results he probably would have gone earlier in the draft.”

At this point in his development, Schlarman said Asafo-Adjei is a better run blocker than pass blocker who “gets really good movement at the point of attack … when he gets on guys he can drive, he can move his feet.”

If Asafo-Adjei doesn’t succeed in the NFL, Schlarman said it won’t be from lack of effort.

“He’s going to put in the extra work. He’s a guy that brings his lunch pail every single day,” Schlarman said. “He’s blue collar. Comes every day, has a great attitude, works extremely hard.”

Daniel Jones Jersey

It doesn’t matter how earnestly David Gettleman defends the New York Giants’ selecting of Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick of the NFL draft. It matters not how many boxes Jones checks according to coach Pat Shurmur’s calculations.

The perception that the Giants reached persists. Entering the draft, many NFL talent evaluators regarded Jones as the fourth-best passer and a mid-first to early second-round pick. And because popular opinion tends to rule — particularly in the ultra-critical New York media market — the 21-year-old Jones finds himself in a seemingly impossible situation.

We don’t know what kind of timeline the Duke product’s development and ascension will follow. He could wind up playing this year. It could be next year. Gettleman on draft night allowed for a scenario in which Jones sits behind Eli Manning for three years like Aaron Rodgers did with Brett Favre.

Whenever he does take the field, Jones’ critics will grade him much harsher than they would have if New York hadn’t taken him sixth. Barring a Patrick Mahomes-like debut, Jones will find it hard to satisfy outward expectations. Solid won’t cut it. He must deliver at an elite level.Is that fair? No. Jones can’t help that the Giants drafted him roughly 11 spots higher than they actually needed to. But this is the situation his bosses created. To overcome it, Jones must work extremely hard, develop thick skin and a deaf ear. Easier said than done.

Step 1 of Jones’ quest began this weekend at Giants’ rookie minicamp. On Friday, he received his first media grilling, fielding questions on his NFL readiness, perceptions that he isn’t worthy of the sixth pick, and his relationship with Manning, whose coach at Ole Miss, David Cutcliffe, coached Jones at Duke.

Jones’ journey to NFL: Those who know QB best believe he’s ready for Big Apple

Whether by coincidence or not, Jones did his best Eli impersonation at the podium. No memorable soundbites. Little emotion. Flat. Simply business.

If he’s smart, Jones will make a habit of following Manning’s every example because few NFL players possess the same kind of unflappability on and off the field.

It’s a fact: Jones remains raw. Living in Manning’s shadow should greatly benefit him from a developmental standpoint. But just as importantly, it should help Jones cultivate the mindset and leadership traits required for successful quarterbacking in New York.Manning is so accustomed to pressure, expectations and criticism that none of it seems to faze him. The course of his life and career forged such fortitude.

First, he has spent his entire life in the shadow of brother Peyton and father Archie. Then, he didn’t just come into the NFL in typical fashion. He refused to play for the Chargers, who drafted him first overall in 2004 and forced a trade to the Giants. That only intensified the pressure.

Manning knows what it’s like to sit behind a Super Bowl MVP (Kurt Warner) as a rookie, and he knows what it’s like to work to overtake him. Just three years later — the season after Peyton won his first Super Bowl — Eli hoisted his own Lombardi Trophy. Four seasons later, he led the Giants to another. He outdueled the GOAT Tom Brady in each Super Bowl.

Yet, Manning has never managed to avoid criticism. For every moment of praise, fans, analysts, opponents and even teammates have heaped blame on his shoulders. It hasn’t mattered when Giants brass has poorly constructed an offensive line or supporting defense.

The popular take?

“It’s Eli’s fault.”

“Eli’s done.”

Manning’s response to criticisms, whether from the outside or from within his own locker room, is always the same: a shrug of the shoulders, monotone, emotionless responses, the same gritty resolve.

“He’s very, very stoic. He never shows anything,” former teammate and current NFL analyst Will Blackmon told USA TODAY Sports. “If you saw any frustration, it was just maybe he threw a bad ball, or somebody ran a wrong route, but it was just during the game. But other than that, it just always appeared like, ‘Life is all good. People can say whatever they want to say, but I’m going to go out there and play.’ You know?

“He’s seen the worst where he almost threw 30 picks in one season, and he’s seen the highest when he won two Super Bowls,” Blackmon, a defensive back in New York in 2010 and 2011, continued. “When I was there, everyone called him Easy E. because he was always chill, man. Just to have that position in that market, man. It doesn’t matter what you do, you can finish 9-7 and just barely miss the playoffs and you get drilled, man. But he’s handled it very well, and he’s delivered.”Manning even shrugged off the 2017 benching by Ben McAdoo. Once the coach was fired, he reclaimed his job, and proceeded business as usual. Now, the 38-year-old finds himself trying to prepare for a 16th season while his clear-cut replacement — and not some random mid- to late-round pick — waits in the wings.

“He has had no response,” Shurmur told reporters Saturday. “I will say this again. I have never been around a person that can stay in the moment better than Eli. That is something that is really unique about him. He is staying in the moment and training to have a terrific season. He looks really good out here throwing, moving and doing all the things necessary. It is his second year in the system, so he knows what we are doing. Better than some of the people teaching him.”

Jones will find no better teacher than Manning himself as he tries to learn the NFL and change perceptions.

Fortunately for him, Manning applies the same professionalism in the quarterbacks’ room as he does on the field and at the podium. Teammates and others familiar with the quarterback will tell you he’s secure enough with his position that he willingly provides fellow quarterbacks guidance.

Relaying the contents of a brief post-draft phone conversation with Manning, Jones — who in previous offseasons has trained with both Manning brothers under Cutcliffe’s direction — said, “He congratulated me and told me he was excited to be teammates,” Jones told reporters on Friday. “I certainly share that same feeling.”

Whether calculated or not, Jones said “learn” or “learning” 14 different times during Friday’s 10-minute press conference, and most of those usages were accompanied with mentions of Manning.

The kid certainly is no fool. In time, we’ll find out if he’s the player the Giants envision. But for now, the situation calls for some invaluable career shadowing.

Deandre Baker Jersey

Every player selected near the top of the NFL draft wants to prove he is worthy of getting taken so high. Deandre Baker has even more to live up to: The Giants gave up a bundle to get him. General manager Dave Gettleman parted with three draft picks to get up into the back end of the first round to take the cornerback from Georgia.

There is some pressure to live up to being the marquee player in such a deal.

“I just come in and play my game and just show them they haven’t made a mistake by coming to get me,’’ Baker said Friday at Giants rookie minicamp. “Just want to come in and help the team.’’

The Giants gave up a second-round pick (No. 37), a fourth-round pick (No. 132) and a fifth-round pick (No. 142) to get to No. 30 to land Baker, who they consider to be the best cover corner in the draft. Baker will compete for a starting job alongside Janoris Jenkins, the only proven veteran cornerback on the roster. The Giants are eager for Jenkins to show Baker, two other corners (Julian Love and Corey Ballentine) taken in the draft and Sam Beal (a supplemental pick in 2018) the ins and outs of playing the position in the NFL.

“He’s a South Florida guy, he plays with a lot of swagger, a lot of personality on the field,’’ Baker said of Jenkins. “Great player, I love watching him. It’ll be good, just getting all the techniques and things he can teach me to get better. … It’ll be good for me.’’

One look at Dexter Lawrence is all you need to determine he is a naturally huge man. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 342 pounds, carries that immense weight remarkably well and is expected to be an immediate help as a run-stopper. The Giants took him with the No. 17 pick and insist he can be a factor as a pass rusher, even though Lawrence had just 10 career sacks at Clemson and just 3.5 sacks in his final two seasons.

“Definitely underrated,’’ Lawrence said of his ability to get to the quarterback. “It’s kind of on me to prove myself, right, because I know who I am and to prove others wrong. I’ve always been able to collapse the pocket, now I’m focused on escaping blocks or finishing the plays and things like that.’’

Former Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was signed after he went undrafted and is listed as both a quarterback and tight end on the Giants’ roster. The 6-3, 220-pound Dungey has no experience at tight end. In 2018, he nearly ran for as many touchdowns (15) as he threw scoring passes (18).

“He was a key guy, a guy that we targeted,’’ coach Pat Shurmur said. “We wanted to bring him in and look at him as a quarterback and see how this grows.’’

WR Darius Slayton from Auburn, a fifth-round draft pick, is renowned for his speed but has a history of dropped passes in college. He dropped two of them early in practice but recovered nicely later in the session.

Corey Ballentine Jersey

When Corey Ballentine, a speedy cornerback with a knack for blocking kicks, was drafted by the Giants on Saturday, it was cause for celebration at Washburn University in Kansas. No member of the Division II Washburn Ichabods had been drafted in more than a decade, and none had gone earlier in the draft since 1988.

“It’s all a crazy dream until you do it,” Ballentine said in a Twitter post after he was selected in the sixth round. “I can’t even explain the emotions I have right now.”

Just hours later, Ballentine’s triumph took on a tragic note when he and a college teammate, Dwane Simmons, were shot a few blocks from Washburn’s Topeka campus at a social gathering at which dozens of people were present. Ballentine was expected to make a full recovery, the university said. Simmons died.

The circumstances of the shooting, which happened in a residential neighborhood near businesses that cater to college students, remained hazy on Sunday afternoon. The Topeka police said officers had responded about 12:45 a.m. Sunday to “a disturbance with gunshots in the area” and found Simmons dead at the scene. Ballentine was taken to a hospital in a private car.

“No arrests have been made at this time,” Gretchen Koenen, a spokeswoman for the Topeka police, said in an email. “Detectives are continuing to investigate.”

The impact was quickly felt at Washburn, whose campus is about two miles from the Kansas Capitol. Instead of a planned Sunday afternoon news conference celebrating the selection of Ballentine, a Topeka native, grief counselors were posted on campus.

“Any time we lose a student it is a sad occasion, but it is particularly poignant to lose a student through such a senseless act,” the university’s president, Jerry Farley, said in a statement. “Both Dwane and Corey have been great examples and representatives of the football team and of Washburn University in general.”

Simmons, 23, was a junior at Washburn, where he had started 17 games as a defensive back despite injuries. He was described by his coach, Craig Schurig, as “one of the most energetic and well-liked players” he had encountered.

Ballentine, 23, competed on the football and track and field teams at Washburn, where he holds university sprint records and was a frequent member of his conference’s academic honor roll. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Giants said they were aware of the shooting.

“We have spoken to Corey, and he is recovering in the hospital,” the team’s statement said.

The shooting in Topeka was one of several this year involving college football players away from the field. On Saturday, John Scott III, a defensive lineman for Texas Tech, was injured by gunfire. In February, Larry Aaron III, a Marshall defensive lineman, died from gunshot wounds he had sustained weeks earlier during a New Year’s party. And last month, a William & Mary player was shot dead in Virginia, and two Texas A&M-Commerce players were shot and wounded while being robbed on a trip to Florida.

The latest such occurrence came just hours after a joyous phone call in which the Giants’ coach, Pat Shurmur, told Ballentine that he would be the 180th pick in the draft.

“Are you healthy, ready to play?” Shurmur asked his new player in a video that was posted on Twitter.

“Yes, sir, I’m ready to get started,” Ballentine responded. He added: “I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for a lifetime, really.”

Darius Slayton Jersey

Daniel Jones immediately stepped into a leadership role during his first exposure as a quarterback of the New York Giants when he took wide receiver Darius Slayton under his wing during the team’s multi-day rookie minicamp this past weekend.

Slayton, the Giants’ fifth-round draft pick, had a rough start to his first rookie minicamp practice, according to NJ.com. Slayton dropped several accurately thrown passes from Jones during drills. On one hand, the 6-foot-1 and 190-pound wide receiver showed off his 4.39 speed and 135-inch broad jump explosiveness from the first route he ran at the minicamp and this allowed him to create separation. Of course, if he can’t hang on to the pass after beating the coverage, it’s a moot point. When Slayton dropped a few in practice, Jones moved on to the next play and didn’t hesitate to throw it back in his direction when he created separation the next time. Slayton rebounded and finished practice strong with multiple difficult catches for chunk-yardage gains.

After practice, Jones was asked to talk about Slayton’s dropped passes during practice.

“I think he did a lot of good things on the field,’’ Jones said, via Giants.com. “I thought he definitely made some plays. You can see his speed on the field and you can feel that. I thought for everyone it was a good first day. We all were probably a little up-and-down.’”

Jones also provided some insight on what he said to Slayton after his early struggles and that’s when we received more insight into who Jones is as a quarterback and as a teammate.

“We talked through a few of the plays,’’ Jones said. “I certainly made a few mistakes there, too. I’ve got to protect him.’”

Jones’ conversation with Slayton must have served as some kind of confidence booster because he finished practice so strong. After the day’s drills were over, head coach Pat Shurmur praised Slayton for his ability to create natural separation in his routes and for fighting through adversity.
“He ran good routes,” Shurmur said, via Giants.com. “He Had a couple of drops early. By the end of it, he made a couple of nice contested catches. That’s why you practice. There are a lot of new things to get used to. New routes. New ways of doing things. New places to line up. That’s just why you practice. I thought he finished the day real well.”

The Giants 2019 Draft class is in the books and now it’s time to get to know everything about these 10 new franchise cornerstones. Stay up to date with everything Giants by taking a second to sign up for our FREE New York Giants newsletter!

Slayton isn’t the only teammate who has built the early foundation of a rapport with Jones, but we’re excited to see their development over the next several seasons with the Giants. One of the most unheralded truths about the modern day NFL passing game is that quarterback-receiver chemistry is very important. Slayton has the early advantage of building a rapport with Jones as the only receiver selected in his draft class and his No. 1 target during the team’s rookie minicamp.

Ryan Connelly Jersey

The New York Giants drafted Wisconsin linebacker Ryan Connelly in Round 5, 143rd overall. What are they getting in the former walk-on quarterback who Dane Brugler of The Athletic said “out-worked more highly-recruited players when he arrived at Wisconsin and will out-work higher drafted players when he lands in an NFL training camp?”

The folks who have watched Connelly closely include those at SB Nation’s Wisconsin website, Bucky’s 5th Quarter. Owen Reise of B5Q shared some of what he knows about the Giants’ new linebacker in a ‘5 Questions’ segment. Let’s see what he had to say.

Ed: The Giants have had guys like Chase Blackburn and Mark Herzlich in the past, guys who were perhaps limited athletically but through smarts and special teams found ways to contribute. Is that an apt comparison for Connelly?

Owen: I think that would be a fairly appropriate parallel to draw for Connelly. Ryan has always had a penchant for making the big tackle or play, despite not relying on athleticism to make those plays. I don’t know if Connelly has the upside to be a starting linebacker capable of fighting off more talented players for the spot at the NFL level, but he was rock solid for Wisconsin for the past three seasons.

Ed: I see reports say he’s limited as an athlete, but still has “sideline-to-sideline” play-making ability. How can that be?

Owen: I think in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense, both Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards were falsely represented as “sideline-to-sideline” defenders, because each of them could get to the sideline on the side of the field they were on. I don’t think Connelly is a bad athlete at all, but he’s certainly not a prototypical Mike linebacker with that elite range for the next level. Connelly and Edwards were incredibly cohesive together and both benefited greatly from playing next to each other.

Ed: What should we know about Connelly’s personality?

Owen: Ryan is a good dude. He’s quiet and goes about his business (probably a stereotype that most Wisconsin players are given, but it fits). It’s not often, but Connelly will show emotion on the field in big moments. Often times, he’s the type of guy to make his play, and walk back to the huddle to do it again. He’s a no-nonsense type of guy who will lead by example. He’s always been very respectful to the media both in availability, and in other avenues.

One other thing to know about Connelly, is that in 2018 he played with an abdominal injury. He told B5Q that he injured it during summer and fall camp, but played with it throughout 2018, despite the ab muscle tearing off of the pubic bone. He missed the Pinstripe Bowl in December due to finally having the injury taken care of, but played all 12 of Wisconsin’s games this season, even the Rutgers game, which was shortly after learning his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. It was very apparent by the end of the season, the Minnesota game in particular, that Connelly was severely hampered by the injury, but was able to gut it out.

Ed: Will he or won’t he eventually be a starting-caliber linebacker in the NFL.

Owen: I somewhat answered this question inadvertently earlier, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities that Connelly could work his way into a starting spot in James Bettcher’s scheme. I think especially if he’s surrounded by studs, and he’s not depended on to make a ton of plays outside of his role, he’ll be just fine. I think Connelly is a SAM linebacker in the NFL, as he’s best coming forward, towards the line of scrimmage.

Ed: Are there any particular highlights from his career at Wisconsin that stand out?

Owen: Ryan Connelly burst onto the UW scene during the LSU game at Lambeau in 2016. Connelly was the fourth inside linebacker on the roster, but after an injury to Chris Orr, Connelly came in and made a huge play to tackle Leonard Fournette short of a first down on a third down, and from then he’s been a fixture in the Badgers’ defense. He had a touchdown against Penn State in the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game as well. Against Ohio State in 2017’s Big Ten Championship Game, Connelly was all over the place attempting to contain J.T. Barrett, and against Iowa this past season Connelly made multiple plays, including a play where he avoided the fullback and submarined the runner short of the first down to force a field goal.

I’ll sincerely miss watching Ryan Connelly play for the Badgers, and I wish him the best of luck with y’all.

Julian Love Jersey

Julian Love knew a life-changing call was coming.

It was just a matter of when.

“I was ready, I was waiting for my name to be called to see where I’d be a good fit,” Love said in a phone interview Saturday. “When it finally came, I was very excited. I feel like I landed at the right spot.”

That spot is with the Giants, who selected the Notre Dame cornerback Saturday in the fourth round of the NFL draft. The Nazareth graduate, who grew up in Westchester, was the No. 108 pick.

He had family with him when the news came.

“They’ve been there my whole life supporting me,” Love said. “It was pretty special to be here with them.”

Love earned consensus All-America honors in 2018 as a junior for the Irish. He made 63 tackles and broke up 16 passes, helping Notre Dame to its first appearance in the College Football Playoff. Despite playing just three seasons, Love is Notre Dame’s career leader with 39 pass breakups.

And now he’ll look to aid the Giants secondary.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” Love said, “my dream for my whole life.”

Love said he spoke with Giants coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

“It was special,” Love said. “I’m lost for words.”

Love was one of four Notre Dame players drafted Saturday. Overall, six Notre Dame players were selected this year, including Providence graduate Miles Boykin.

The Ravens drafted the wide receiver in the third round Friday with the No. 93 pick.

“There was a lot of anticipation, a lot of waiting around, but it was great being able to get the chance to play for a team like the Ravens,” Boykin said in a phone interview Saturday.

Boykin led the Irish with 59 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. The Ravens traded two six-rounders to the Vikings to move up and select Boykin.

“I was extremely humbled to get that phone call. I was speechless,” Boykin said. “The biggest thing for me is that they traded two draft picks away to come get me. That makes me feel wanted. I knew they really wanted me and that’s what they had to do to get me.

“They had faith in me, so I know everything is going to be great because I have a coaching staff that believes in me and I believe in them.”

The Chargers drafted linebacker Drue Tranquill in the fourth round (No. 130). He was the second Notre Dame player the Chargers drafted this year — they grabbed defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in the first round Thursday.

“Great pick,” Tillery wrote on Twitter. “Welcome Drue.”

Running back Dexter Williams went to the Packers in the sixth round at No. 194. Tight end Alize Mack rounded out Notre Dame’s draft day, going to the Saints in the seventh round at No. 231.

“Saints Nation, I’m so emotional right now,” Mack wrote on Twitter. “I promise you, you’re going to get everything I got.”