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Among those invited to rookie minicamp for a tryout was Dayton safety Brandon Easterling.
Easterling sat down with Giants Wire to discuss his goals coming in and the opportunity with the Giants ahead of him.
Easterling considers himself somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades given his versatility and is looking to “turn heads” during his tryout with Big Blue.
Easterling trained at Test Football Academy in New Jersey, a facility where retired Giants offensive lineman Rich Seubert coaches.
The Dayton product is hungry to win and will certainly come in with a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted. His former special teams coach, Craig Turner, has ties to Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who will work with Easterling upon his arrival in New Jersey.
Anticipation ahead of rookie mini camp
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“I’m definitely getting anxious. I’m ready to get up there,” Easterling said. “I leave Thursday morning out of Cincinnati, so it’s kind of setting in now that, you know, it’s go time. I’m super excited, I’m super thankful. It’s an opportunity that most people don’t get in their lives, so I’m really thankful for it. Ready to take advantage of it.”
What can you bring to the table for the Giants?
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“I think two things that pop off right off the bat. The first one is versatility,” Easterling said. “All the way back to high school and transitioning through college, I’m a guy that’s played multiple positions. I know in college, I played everything from stand up defensive end to safety to corner to outside backer to like a hybrid to free safety, strong safety, long snapper, punt returner and then you know I did all the special teams.
“So I’ve gotten a lot of experience in college and high school with just being able to be flexible with the game plan for that week. The one thing I learned about the NFL that a lot of people don’t understand is coaching staffs only have 53 spots to fill. 11 on offense, 11 on defense and all of special teams, so it’s kind of almost required now-a-days for guys to have multiple different skillsets, so I think I fit that mold perfectly.
“On top of that, another strength I bring[is] just a guy that has an edge to him. I really, truly believe that everybody pulls the underdog story and everybody says I’ve been overlooked and stuff like that. I think if someone were to go back to my track record and you know, kind of look where I come from… a small school guy and all this. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and I want to win. I want to win football games and contribute to a championship.”
What position are you coming in expected to play?
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“As far as I understand, I will be brought in for safety work but I think the title of safety has so many different meanings,” Easterling said. “You’ve got the free, you’ve got the strong, you could even throw a dime in there for special packages on defense. And once again, that’s something that I think I can really take advantage of; I have a lot of snaps at a lot of different positions. So, you know, I think wherever they decide to put me at I’ll be ready and really be able to help them.”
With lacking depth, do you think you can seize this opportunity?
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“Absolutely, Easterling said. “I’m going to get to go in and play with some of the best of the best.
“It’s funny, I hadn’t talked to the Giants before the draft or anything like that. We had really no communication and I had a decent number of teams reach out so it was never really on my mind to be in New York. But just when I got that call…I’ve been so bought in and I haven’t even met anyone in the organization yet.”
Do you see a similar path to a guy like Victor Cruz, who came out of nowhere and made a name for himself?
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“Oh, absolutely. That’s someone I grew up watching. You say the name Victor Cruz and I immediately think of Madden. I think of watching his highlight tapes when I was a kid,” Easterling said. “You know and it’s one thing for people who have been around guys to give you advice on the whole how to make it, how to stay in, how to do all this. But it’s another thing to hear it from somebody who has been there. Without a doubt, that’s somebody I’d love to talk to and just kind of figure out the ins and outs of the league.”
Is there a player on the Giants you are looking forward to working with?
“I mean, there’s so many guys names all over the headlines of guys you get to see. He’s not even on the defensive side of the ball but [Daniel] Jones, the quarterback. From what I’ve seen on social media and TV and stuff, the way the guy carries himself is a class act and I think that’s something that’s overlooked now a days,” Easterling said.
“And a lot of guys kind of forget, the way you carry yourself is really who you are. Sometimes people get caught up with the fame or the money and that doesn’t seem to be the case for him, so it’d be really cool to meet him but there are so many guys, again, who are veterans or big-time names that have figured it out so it’s hard to pick just one player.”
Is there an NFL player that you think most resembles your style of play?
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“I’m going to throw myself in a category that is second-to-none. A lot of people would be like, ‘this kid doesn’t know what he’s talking about,’ but I would say ‘Honey Badger’ Tyrann Mathieu,” Easterling said. “And the reason I say that is because you watch his film and you just see how many different positions the guy plays, and he’s a very vocal person. Those are two things that in college I always pride myself in, you know, always flexible and versatile and doing what my coaches needed at any given position to the best of my abilities.
“And the other thing is, I was without a doubt kind of our vocal guy the past three or four years at Dayton. So I know that’s big shoes to kind of match myself to but … right off the bat that’s somebody I think of.”
Do you think being a three-sport athlete prepares you for camp?
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“The big thing is it just trains you how to be flexible and it teaches you how to use your body and mind in different ways that somebody would learn from one sport,” Easterling said. “I’ve heard a lot of coaches now-a-days advocate for multiple sport athletes. And initially you would think you would want a person who trains football year-round and that’s all they do and that’s all you know.
“And you’d think they’d excel the most out of the sport but just from personal experience and what I’ve heard, being a multiple sport athlete, it trains your body in so many different ways you are having to do skills that you wouldn’t necessarily have to do in football which then relays over on to the field. So I think it’s just helped me in all aspects, athleticism and then obviously your IQ for the sport and IQ for other sports — it all just ties together.”
What kind of prep work goes into your approach to camp?
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“Just staying in shape. The big thing I want to be noticed for going into camp is [being] this guy came in ready,” Easterling said. “I’m working with my DB coach back home and staying in the weight room and I actually trained for combine testing at a place in New Jersey very close to the Giants facilities — the TEST football Academy. I’ve been talking to them about some things.
“So staying in shape, protecting my craft. I understand my days are over of needing to understand the college playbook, but I’m just watching film of the old me at college and just seeing what I did well, what I did bad — understanding my strengths and weaknesses again. And understanding what I would like to work on which I have done going into this camp to be the best I can be.”
What are your goals going into camp?
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“To turn heads. Get attention, and then get a shot at the 90-man roster. I think if I can get signed to the 90-man roster, that’s going to give me time to prove that I belong,” Easterling said. “I just want to stick out and show I belong. This is once again an opportunity that not many people get and I’m definitely not going to let this pass me by. I’m going to give it all I have and just leave it all out there.”
What age did you see the NFL as a real possibility?
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“I’d say for me, it was my junior year of college. I mean you kind of hit on it — everybody wants to go to the NFL and think about making it in the NFL,” Easterling said. “Every college athlete is dominating in high school and it was always a dream of mine, but I had a teammate of mine my junior year who is a tight end for the Saints now, Adam Trautman.
“My junior year was his last season and both of us made the All-American list. We were the only two [from our] team and then with him being drafted, I kind of sat back and looked at it and I was just thinking I had a season that was up to par with this guy. We were both on the same All-American team.
“Obviously he was offense and I was defense but regardless. . . I just kind of realized if he can do it, I can do it as well as my other teammates. So that spring following my junior season, I had some teams come in and check me out and then from there it was all I could think about. It’s become an obsession and it’s all I think about still.”
Did going undrafted add fuel to the fire?
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“Honestly, I don’t know if I could have more hunger but no question,” Easterling said. “Everybody wants to get drafted, everybody wants to have their name called on TV or whatever it may be. So going undrafted is definitely something that adds fuel to my fire and I touched on it earlier but you look at my track record and in high school, all four years I went 2-8. And I remember coming out of high school, I had record-breaking numbers and I heard every excuse in the book about why they couldn’t give me this scholarship, the big schools.
“So with the cards I was dealt I had the Division I offers. The first thing I did when I sat down is I looked at each school and I looked at their records and what teams won football games and Dayton was a team that won football games. . . I thought I was going to go to Dayton and get a ring because they had won three or four years prior to that. [But] I was never able to see one in Dayton. Closest we got was second in our conference and so every year it adds up — I just want a championship. I just want to prove that I am a champion. I want this so bad. So yes, it added hunger and added fuel to the fire but I’m just one of those guys who wakes up and I’m kind of mad at the world and I’m just ready to show the world what I could do.”
What is something fans should know about when they hear your name?
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“I’m somebody that this isn’t about the money. This isn’t anything other than I just want to pave a path for so many guys like me,” Easterling said. “All the guys that were kind of overlooked and maybe too slow at a time in their life or too small at a time in their live and not a lot of people paid attention to them. I want to win a championship and I’m somebody who is going to go in every single day and do what I have to do. If I have to hold footballs the entire practice and sit there and be the best teammate, I don’t care. Whatever it may be, I don’t care. I’m willing to do it. I’m going to do it.
“This isn’t going to be one of those cases where I’m a primadonna or someone who is too good to do something. It’s going to be nitty gritty, blue collar attitude, just ready to work. Just help a team out to win a championship. With that team being the Giants, I couldn’t be more excited. I feel like the culture there is just a very rough, scrappy team and that’s just something I want to be a part of.”