Not far from the New York Giants’ practice facility in New Jersey, Donte Deayon has the perfect study buddy as his roommate at the hotel where rookies have been housed.
The former Boise State cornerback shares a room with former Boise State safety Darian Thompson. They scour the Giants’ playbook together, bounce questions off one another, and in practice do what they do best — make quarterbacks pay for errant passes.
It also is a continuation of their one-upmanship from their days as Broncos, when Thompson had 19 interceptions during his career and Deayon had 17. Twice last season, they each had an interception in the same game. On Monday, Deayon ran an interception back for a touchdown during Giants practice, and Thompson ended the day with one of his own.
“It’s been so beneficial having each other,” Deayon said. “If I get a pick, he’s going to try extra hard to get one, and vice versa.
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“Just like old times.”
Both have excelled during organized team activities, Thompson, the team’s third-round pick, is vying for a starting job. Deayon is fighting for a roster spot as an undersized, undrafted free agent. He’s quickly shown what Boise State fans have known for four years: The little guy has big-time talent.
Deayon had another interception Thursday and has earned some notice from New York press. The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger’s James Kratch wrote this week, “If he continues to (impress), he could be a contender for a reserve cornerback spot.” The New York Post wrote a feature Monday calling him “a tiny chatterbox Giants corner you can root for.”
“It’s been really exciting,” Deayon said. “Being able to learn from the vets, trying to learn from them and incorporate that into myself. I think it’s going well, starting to play faster the more I know. It’s been fun to get my hands on the rock.”
Listed at 5-foot-9, only three players on the Giants are shorter than Deayon, and his 158-pound frame is nearly 20 pounds lighter than everyone else. But this is nothing new. Deayon was small at Boise State, too, but it also was part of what made him so good, able to compensate with a monster-sized work ethic.
“There’s not a guy that I’ve been around with a bigger heart,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin told Giants.com last month. “... He plays the size you want him to, and he does it consistently, and he’s got extreme confidence when he goes out there to play and absolutely loves this game.”
Leading up to April’s NFL Draft, Deayon visited just one team, the Giants. Even though he said the final day of the draft “was really long,” minutes after it was completed, he signed with New York.
“When I first went there, the thing that really stood out to me was how their mentality was so similar to Boise State,” Deayon said. “They’re one of the oldest NFL teams. You could see the foundation. They’re all about being blue-collar and expecting to win championships, exactly what we said in Boise.”
The Giants wrapped up OTAs Friday and will hold a mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday. Deayon said he’s “learning as many positions as possible,” working on defense and special teams, trying to be more versatile and smarter. With the preseason still two months away, Deayon understands nothing is guaranteed, which has motivated him even more.
“Competing with guys who have families to feed, the competition is at another level, and knowing you can get cut, that there isn’t a redshirt year or anything, that alone drives me,” Deayon said. “I’m always going to have the size thing as a chip on my shoulder. I know I can do it with the best of them. I’m never going to be comfortable. If I make the team as one of the smallest guys in the league, then I’m going to want to be one of the smallest guys to be in the Pro Bowl.”
As he adjusts to the bigger, faster NFL and its nuances, despite tough odds to make the team, Deayon is anything but overwhelmed. Even gentle ribbing from teammates about his size is something he felt well-prepared to face.
“I’d already heard it all,” he said.