Now Xavier Grimble, an undrafted rookie, is embracing the weight of wearing it a quarter century later.
Shortly after signing with the team late last week and receiving his jersey, Grimble posted a photo on Twitter of the 2011 Giants Ring of Honor inductee, saying that he is watching highlights of Bavaro for inspiration.
And what did he see?
“Just his toughness and his humbleness and just how he let his actions on the field speak the most,” Grimble said on Tuesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. “I always like to look at the guys who were great before and just look what they did and, you know, mold yourself after that. You can’t go wrong with following somebody who has already done it before you. That’s kind of my thing, to look back and try to envision myself doing the same type of thing.”
He’ll be taking the long road in making that vision a reality.
Grimble was not one of the 256 names announced earlier this month at the 2014 NFL Draft. But the Giants, like several other NFL teams, still coveted the 6-4, 257-pound product out of USC. That’s why shortly after the draft they all called the rookie free agent. The Giants just dialed first.
“They were the first team to call,” said Grimble, who added that the 49ers, Falcons, Redskins, and Raiders were among the other teams that reached out. “I felt like they showed the most interest. I felt that they were genuine. The Giants is a great organization. I heard nothing but good things about it. It was kind of a no-brainer, really.”
And while making it as an undrafted rookie is difficult, it is not impossible -- neither on the Giants, nor at his position. Most recently, Donnell did so last year out of Grambling State, and before him, Jake Ballard was a key contributor in the Giants’ 2011 Super Bowl run after earning a spot on the roster as an undrafted rookie the year before.
Since then, the position has been a revolving door with four different starting right ends in the past four years. Brandon Myers’ departure in free agency assured there will be a fifth in 2014.
Hoping to solidify the role, Grimble will try to separate himself as an all-around player in both blocking and receiving.
For the Giants, guys like Bavaro, Jeremy Shockey, and Kevin Boss have been a part of that. Around the NFL, so have John Mackey and Kellen Winslow Sr., in the past and Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham in the present.
The common thread? They’re all players that Grimble said he has studied.
“So I go all around, I go way back,” he said. “I just keep watching. It’s inspiring. I feel like we’re all connected in some way.”