1. First-round pick Andrew Thomas is very musically inclined. The offensive tackle was a member of his high school's concert band at Pace Academy in Atlanta.
"My freshman year in high school I was still in the band, enjoying everything, and my head coach, [former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Patriots] Chris Slade, told me I had a chance to write my own ticket playing football," Thomas said back at the NFL Scouting Combine. "And I loved the game but music was still very important to me and he told me that I have to put my focus on football and that's what I did. I still love music, but I put my focus on football and I'm here now. I was still in it, but I wasn't into it as much as I was. I played the drums in the band but when I went to college I couldn't do that anymore so I transitioned to playing piano. At my high school I'd be at the pep rally and I'd be playing in the band with my jersey on and then I'd go over to the football team and do the football things."
2. Thomas was the highest-drafted offensive lineman by the Giants since Ohio State's John Hicks was selected third overall in 1974. Thomas started all 41 games in which he played in three seasons at Georgia – 15 at right tackle as a true freshman in 2017 and 13 at left tackle in both 2018 and 2019. A first-team All-American in 2019. Thomas was a key player on Georgia teams that won 11 or more games in three straight seasons, won three consecutive SEC Eastern Division titles, and played in New Year's Six Bowl games three years in a row.
3. Thomas gave the best speech that Georgia coach Kirby Smart ever heard. Football stadium dedications tend to be a who's who of state officials, especially in places like Georgia. Thomas,was invited to represent the players at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the University of Georgia late in the summer of 2018. Just a sophomore at the time, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with UGA President Jere W. Morehead, Director of Athletics Greg McGarity, head football coach Kirby Smart, the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, Board of Regents and the Foundation chair.
They were there to celebrate the massive, 16-month "West End Zone" project at Sanford Stadium, which added space for a new locker room for the Bulldogs, a larger video board, and a new entry plaza for fans. Thomas had already done great things on the field (he was named a Freshman All-American the previous fall) and would go on to do much more, but the speech he delivered that day stuck with his college coach. So much so that Smart used the story in a congratulatory video message shortly after Thomas was drafted.
"Probably one of the best speeches I've ever heard," Smart said. "It came straight from the heart. It wasn't memorized. It wasn't read. You just spoke. I know you've got a bright future, and we can't wait to see you be an NFL 'Dog' and come back and visit with our players because you meant so much to me and the University of Georgia."
View photos of the entire 10-member New York Giants 2020 Draft Class
4. Second-round pick Xavier McKinney used to think Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't like him. Nevertheless, the safety earned a starting role as a sophomore and proceeded to burst onto the scene with 73 tackles, six for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 15 starts. He was named the Defensive MVP of the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma to help send Alabama to the national title game.
"We have a production point system here that we use, and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing," Saban said on the “Giants Huddle” podcast. "He's instinctive, he's a quick reactor, he's got a burst. He can be a knock-back tackler. So he's always been a real playmaker for us and it comes in a lot of different ways, but that's probably his greatest strength – his production."
5. The Alabama coaching staff turned to McKinney, a defensive back, to lead the defense on the Tuesday before the first game of the 2019 college season. It came after the dynastic defense lost its leader and signal-caller Dylan Moses to a knee injury. The Crimson Tide was already dealing with another serious injury to senior Joshua McMillon, another stout linebacker.
"He had to be everything to everybody," Alabama radio analyst and former Crimson Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson recalled on "Big Blue Kickoff Live" on Giants.com. "He was the oldest guy. He was the safety that you could still get in the box and align everybody and tell them what to do. He had to do that all while maintaining the safety position, which is pretty important in the Nick Saban defense, which has to come down in the box, be a nickel defender at times, be a free safety depending on times, and also you've got to come down there and be the strong safety to stop the run. So Xavier, to me, is a guy that can do it all."
6. Saban thinks the reason McKinney slipped to the second round is because of what teams like the Giants saw in the first round: a deep class for wide receivers and offensive linemen. Before the Giants chose McKinney at No. 36 overall, eight wide receivers and seven offensive linemen went off the board. That's 15 spots filled on two positions. The Giants got the ball rolling by taking Thomas at No. 4. McKinney was the first of 16 safeties taken.
"Normally, statistically, there are two safeties picked in the first round if you look at historical data," Saban said on “Big Blue Kickoff Live” on Giants.com. "So he should have been a first-round pick based on historical information. And certainly as a player, I think most people had him graded there. I just think sometimes in the draft when there's an overload at another position, whether it's receiver or offensive line or whatever it is, that guys don't always get picked where their grade says.
"So I think this is a really, really good pick for the Giants. Like I tell all our guys here, it's not where you get picked, it's what you do with the opportunity that you have. So don't worry so much about where you get picked, but what you do after you get the opportunity."
7. Two springs ago, Giants coach Joe Judge scouted McKinney, then the special teams coordinator for the Patriots, had an opportunity to pass through the Alabama campus and watch practice. He was there to scout a couple other guys for the draft, but someone else stood out. There was a young player flying around, playing with a lot of passion and energy. It was McKinney.
"There's a number of guys down at Alabama that have a great background on him," said Judge, who won two national championships under Saban before winning three Super Bowls under Bill Belichick. "There are a number of guys on our staff currently that have a great background on the Alabama guys, Burton Burns (running backs coach) and Jody Wright (defensive assistant) were there in recent years. They were there when these guys came in as freshmen, they were there for the progression. As well as making phone calls down to Tuscaloosa, we were able to make phone calls and have staff meetings with guys who had direct relationships with these players and that's a great advantage. … There are certain people in that building, not just the head coach, that you rely on what they say. You know they see them as a person and how they treat everybody. Everyone has nothing but the highest compliments of him as a person and that's what we're looking for. Guys with good character, good traits, that want to come in and want to work and want to earn what they get."
8. The New York Knicks were third-round pick Matt Peart's first love after moving from Jamaica to the Bronx, but the Giants ended up stealing his heart. Then they drafted him with the 99th overall pick. Born in Kingston, Peart moved to New York as a child and, through the Oliver Scholars program for high-achieving students, was accepted into Governor's Academy, a boarding school in Byfield, Massachusetts.
"Just watching them on the TV, just the culture and everything the Giants stand for was something that was appealing for me as a young kid," Peart said. "Especially growing up, especially that moment in high school when they had that Super Bowl (XLVI) win my freshman year. That was a very, very fun time for me."
9. Peart's favorite player is Eli Manning.
"My favorite player, my favorite Giant always would be Eli Manning, for sure," Peart said. "The man is just tough, tough as nails. I respect his game and I just respect everything he does for the game. You know, he's definitely my favorite Giant, 100 percent."
10. Peart is a "skinny" 315 pounds. A quick scan of Peart's player page on UConn's athletics website might lead one to believe there was a mistake in his profile picture. He looks 100 pounds lighter than his listed weight.
"It's rare to describe someone as 315 pounds and skinny, but that's what he is," Judge said. "He's an athletic guy, he has a lot of length to him."
With 36 5/8-inch arms, Peart grew up playing basketball in the Bronx.
"You know, Jamaicans call it 'The Concrete Jungle,'" he said. "So it's easier to pick up a ball and shoot some hoops because there weren't really that many fields open."
It wasn't until he enrolled at Governor's Academy that he was exposed to football. There, he helped his squad win four consecutive Independent School League titles. In the winter, he served as captain of the school's basketball team.
"I feel like when it comes to basketball, you have to have real fine footwork," Peart said. "I really feel like that helped correlate on the field when it comes to football. Being a post player, you have to be able to have good footwork to work in the post. It's just what you have to have. I really feel like that helped me correlate over to football. Just being a tough and dominant player in the post as well helped me be a dominant football player as well."
11. Peart and Thomas trained together before the draft. Peart was the 10th offensive tackle taken in the draft; the first was Thomas. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the two trained together in Pensacola, Florida, leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine.
"He's an amazing tackle," Peart said. "He's a real true talent when it comes to offensive line play. I definitely picked up some things from him with my time down there. Staying down there with the small time we had, I definitely consider him to be a brother and now he's definitely a brother right now. He can't get rid of me now. I'm looking forward to it and I'm happy he's coming to the city."
12. Fourth-round draft choice Darnay Holmes graduated from UCLA in less than three years and plays chess to train his mind. The cornerback picked it up when Chip Kelly, known as an outside-the-box head coach, brought in U.S. Chess Coach Seth Makowsky to work with the Bruins. Originally intended for the quarterbacks, chess fever quickly spread throughout the entire team. For Holmes, it became much more than a hobby.
"I saw several quarterbacks playing chess and I'm the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that's going on," said Holmes, who earned a spot on the Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll in Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019 and Winter 2020. "I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I'm doing, I'm not a piece, I'm a player. I'm going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we're all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do."
13. Among Holmes' mentors are Pro Football Hall of Famers Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams. His father, Darick, was an NFL running back from 1995-99 and rushed for 1,769 yards and 11 touchdowns for Buffalo, Green Bay and Indianapolis. His brother played wide receiver at Arizona from 2015-18. His mentors also include Pro Football Hall of Famers Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams.
"I have a great group of guys around me," Holmes said. "Those guys are constantly providing me with insight that will allow me to be disciplined and have freedom. Freedom equals discipline. By them giving different tools and different things that I can add to my toolbox, I'm just ready to rock."
14. Fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux never missed a practice or game at Oregon.
"I remember one game I missed a snap against Wyoming because my shoe came off," the interior offensive lineman said. "That's the only snap I have ever missed, that was my sophomore year. Ever since then, it was only if we were up big on an opponent."
Lemieux will wear No. 66, the same as Hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.
"I had a left tackle in college named Tyrell Crosby that played right next to me, so it was Crosby and Lemieux," he said. "And people had a fit with that."
The Giants' 2020 draft class has received jersey numbers. Note: Numbers are always subject to change.
15. Lemieux was the second Oregon Duck to be drafted by a pro team in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area this year. Sabrina Ionescu, the best player in women's college basketball, was the No. 1 overall selection in the WNBA Draft, by the New York Liberty.
"I do know Sabrina," Lemieux said. "She came in the class after me. Obviously, she is a really talented athlete, awesome person. A fearless competitor. When you watch her play that's the first thing you see. A competitor who loves her teammates and loves the game of basketball. I think that's the most important part of being a great athlete, loving your sport."
16. Cam Brown caught passes from Dwayne Haskins in high school. Born in Silver Spring, Md., sixth-round pick Cam Brown started his prep career at James Hubert Blake High School before the linebacker transferred to the Bullis School, a private prep school in Potomac, where he was a three-time captain. He also played receiver on offense and caught 16 passes from quarterback Dwayne Haskins, now with the Washington Redskins. Brown was also on the track team and set personal bests in the discus (127'6") and triple jump (44'3"). His cousin, Andre Davis, was a wide receiver at Virginia Tech and played nine seasons in the NFL.
17. Seventh-round pick Carter Coughlin is…not related to two-time Super Bowl champion head coach Tom Coughlin.
"No, I've never met him and we are not related," Coughlin said, "but I've got a bunch of people that have been asking me that over social media."
He still has a rich football heritage, though. The outside linebacker from the University of Minnesota comes from a long line of Gophers. His father, Robert, played football there from 1986-90 and was a two-year letterwinner. His mother, Jennie (Moe), played tennis for Minnesota from 1989-92 and was a three-time all-conference selection and two-time team MVP. His grandfather, Tom Moe, lettered from 1957-59 and later served as interim athletic director for the Maroon and Gold for three years (1999-2002). His uncle, Mike Moe, lettered for the Gophers in the 1980s.
The award is given annually to a top female and male student-athlete at each conference school. This year, the Big 10 celebrated the 106th anniversary of the award, which pre-dates many of the biggest national awards, including the Heisman Trophy and Naismith Award.
Notable winners include NFL all-time passing yards and touchdown leader Drew Brees (Purdue, 2001); 10-time NCAA basketball champion head coach John Wooden (Purdue, 1932); Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy (Minnesota, 1977); former Yankees manager and catcher Joe Girardi (Northwestern, 1986); Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese (Purdue, 1967); and Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, 1963).
He was also high school teammates with current Giants linebacker Ryan Connelly in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The Giants drafted Connelly, who went across state lines to play at the University of Wisconsin, in the fifth round last year. Coughlin overlapped with Connelly his freshman and sophomore years. Connelly, then the quarterback, helped Eden Prairie to three Minnesota Class 6A football state championships.
"It's awesome that he switched over to linebacker, it clearly worked out for him," Coughlin said. "He texted me on draft day and I got a chance to call him last night. He gave a rundown on a bunch of stuff, so it's awesome to connect with him and I will be able to get some awesome wisdom from him."
Coughlin added: "He was a monster as a quarterback. He was built like a linebacker, crazy athletic and super smart. All that obviously translated over to his linebacker game. I still remember him standing on the 50-yard line with his feet planted and being able to throw the ball all the way to the end zone without an issue. He had a cannon for an arm."
18. Seventh-round pick TJ Brunson was the first recruit coach Will Muschamp visited after being hired at South Carolina. Muschamp previously coached for Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins.
"It was big to know that someone, especially a coach like that in the SEC, felt like I was important enough to go out and get to help start a team for his inaugural season," the linebacker said. "That's going down in history, we're his first class. It's crazy looking back at it knowing all of our stories and how we got there and things like that."
19. Seventh-round pick Chris Williamson hasn't forgotten the white stretched-out Hummer limousines that Darius Slayton and his team arrived in when they squared off in the Gwinnett Football League championship game. Slayton's team was obviously confident, having mercy ruled Williamson's squad, 34-0, in the regular season.
Nine-year-olds will be nine-year-olds.
In the rematch for the title of one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia, Williamson's side got revenge and shut out Slayton's by a score of 14-0.
"I mean, I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing," Williamson said. "But you know, it's something I still hold over Darius to this day."
Williamson added, "I don't even think they rode the limos home."
The longtime rivals-turned-friends have reunited on the Giants, albeit remotely for now. Slayton, the 171st pick last year, proved to be a Day 3 diamond in the rough as he tied Tennessee's A.J. Brown for the most touchdown catches by a rookie last season. Williamson, the 247th of 255 possible picks in 2020, hopes to get the "steal" label, too.
Williamson grew up playing offense. He didn't switch to defense until his senior year at Gainesville High School in Georgia. He did so at the behest of former Pro Bowl safety Buchanan, who spent seven of his 12 NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
Williamson met him in the summer of eighth grade when he was training with his brother, Kendall, who now plays for Stanford. Williamson's parents, Bethel and Ursula, saw Ray Buchanan with his son, Ray Jr., and asked if he would be willing to work with their sons.
Williamson reminded Buchanan of himself.
"I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver," Williamson recalled. "You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you're an average size receiver, but you're a big defensive back that can move. There's not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon."
20. Tae Crowder wants to be anything but 'irrelevant.' Two-hundred and fifty-five players were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. After 254 of them had been chosen, Tae Crowder was still waiting for his name to be called. At that point, the linebacker from the University of Georgia figured he'd be able to flip the process and choose his team instead of having one take him. But a funny thing happened on his way to rookie free agency: The Giants selected him with that final pick. It wasn't the first time Crowder was late to learn where he would play football. Out of high school, he first committed to Georgia Southern before deciding to attend the University of Kentucky. But then…
"I always knew I wanted to go to Georgia," he said. "I was having conversations with different people trying to figure out some things and trying to see if Georgia was going to ever offer me. But the week of signing day, that's when I ended up finding out they wanted to give me the offer. They gave me the offer like two days or a day prior to signing day. That whole time was stressful for me, too, but that's how I ended up going to Georgia."