EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When Leonard Williams was traded to the Giants from the Jets on Oct. 28, 2019, he quickly heard from a fellow defensive lineman on his new team, rookie Dexter Lawrence.
"He reached out to me on Instagram and sent me his number, welcomed me to the team," Williams said. "He was one of the first guys on the team that I talked to, and he was one of the first guys I started talking to. And we've kept a good relationship since."
"We bonded right away," Lawrence said. "And it was big for me to have another vet in the room and somebody that I grew up watching a little bit when I was in high school. It was just cool to have him and his personality; we just linked automatically."
That is an understatement. It might be impossible to find two Giants teammates who have a tighter connection than Williams and Lawrence. They play next to each other on the defensive line. Their lockers are side-by-side. They hang out together off the field.
This week, their teammates selected them as two of the Giants’ 10-man contingent of captains, the first pair of defensive linemen to be so honored since season-long captains were instituted in 2007.
"I think it's a really cool thing," Williams said. "People are always saying that we're like brothers. We're like the biggest in the building when we're walking together all the time. Even my girl (Hailey Lott) made a funny comment when I told her that me and him are both captains. She was like, 'Oh, you guys are like a package deal, huh?' And I think it's awesome because we have a great relationship and we're in the same room. We're around each other all the time."
"This is both of our first years on this team being a captain, so it just shows the respect that we earned on the team and the leadership that we've grown into," Lawrence said. "It's just an honor, honestly, to be the voice of the team and to be able to just lead – a known leader type of thing."
Williams, 28, and Lawrence, 24, have been constants on the Giants' defensive line. The former has played all 41 games since the trade, while Lawrence missed only one, last Jan. 2 in Chicago, when he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. They have combined for 293 tackles and 27.5 sacks.
"I think we're a little bit different and that's a good thing," Williams said. "You don't want two of the same players. I think Dex is very strong. We both are similar in a way that we are strong and play with long arms. I like to get on edges and speed rush sometimes with a little more quickness and agile-ness. And Dex is a little bit stronger than me where he can really just bulldoze somebody. And he plays double teams really well. We play different blocks differently.
"We talk a lot on the field, especially because we have to play off each other, and that's another great part about us being close is I know his strengths and weaknesses. And he knows mine. And I think knowing that, it helps us play off each other pretty well. I know if I'm causing the double team to come to me, he's going to win in that A-gap or the B-gap, and we're going to balance it up."
View photos of the New York Giants' 2022 roster as it currently stands.
They take their jobs and the game, but not themselves, very seriously.
"During practice, we have so much fun," Williams said. "We're just doing funny celebrations, just jumping up and down with each other."
How about off the field?
"We're outgoing in our own ways," Lawrence said. "I'd say we're both outgoing people, good relationship people. But it's different. He's Big Cat. I'm Big Sexy."
Williams said Lawrence is a good dancer, a skill the Big Cat doesn't possess.
"Yeah, but he's a good swimmer," Lawrence said. "I don't swim."
"Interestingly, even though we hang out a lot, we're not the same," Williams said. "We definitely get along very well. We hang out outside of football. We hang out in the facility all the time. There are times where we're laughing at the same stuff and all that type of stuff. We get along because we hang out so much. But at the same time, we are a little bit different."
Indeed, it's not unusual after practice to see the two linemen sitting next to each other in front of their lockers, talking about a multitude of subjects.
"When I think of Dex, he's just a man child," Williams said. "He's one of the biggest, strongest guys I've ever seen. But what I love about him is he knows how to turn it on and off. What I mean by that is when he's on the field, he knows how to be aggressive and play with that type of killer mentality instinct. But when he's off the field, he's just the biggest, jolliest kid of all time. And I'm jolly in a way, too, where I get along with most people. But I also feel like I act a little more, I wouldn't say mature, and I'm not going to say he's immature, but he's just a little bit more kid-like."
Williams and Lawrence are just the fifth and sixth defensive linemen to be selected Giants seasonal captains. The others were Michael Strahan (2007), Fred Robbins (2008), Justin Tuck (2010-13) and Dalvin Tomlinson (2020).
Both Williams and Lawrence were captains in high school and college and the former was also a captain with his previous team, making him the first player since 2007 to be a captain for both the Giants and Jets.
"I've had the privilege to be a captain on every team I've been on," Williams said. "It means a lot, being not a drafted guy here and I've been able to work myself up as a team player and a guy that people respect wearing blue."
"I don't think this was given to us," Lawrence said. "Both took us about four years to earn these patches, the big 'C's as I call it. But it's just an honor, and I'm happy, and I'm going to wear it proud."
*Coach Brian Daboll said guard Shane Lemieux, linebacker Elerson Smith and cornerback Rodarius Williams will all be placed on injured reserved. They would have to miss a minimum of four games.
Daboll declined to say who will start for Lemieux at left guard the opener at Tennessee on Sept. 11.
"Let's see until we finalize the roster to give you a better answer," he said.
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.