Like football players, training venues come in all shapes and sizes.
Cody Latimer, a 6-foot-2 wide receiver and former Denver Bronco, works out in the Mile High City. Donte Deayon, a 5-foot-9 cornerback, remains closer to sea level and trains in New Jersey. No matter what, though, both paths were always going to lead to East Rutherford. The New York Giants reported to training camp this past week, and we are following the journeys of Latimer and Deayon on and off the field as subjects of this year’s “Giants Life” on Giants.com.
While both players are looking to carve out bigger roles on the team, Latimer is starting with a fresh slate for a new team. The former second-round draft choice by Denver in 2014 spent the past four years behind the duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who each averaged 1,000 yards per season in that span. He now joins a cast that features Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, and Latimer is excited to start over. And so are the Giants after last season’s 3-13 campaign. The team has a new general manager, a new head coach, a new offense and a new defense.
“I call it hashtag newbeginnings,” Latimer said. “That’s all it is. It’s for everybody. It’s a fresh slate. No matter what happened in previous years from me, from the team I was with, or with the Giants and their previous year, everybody is starting from stage one and square one, a clean slate. We’re all learning a new offense, a defense. I feel that it was great that we all are starting at the same spot.”
In his final year with the Broncos, Latimer posted career highs across the board with 19 receptions for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He played 379 snaps on offense, roughly half of the total, and 131 more on special teams. The latter is where he could make an immediate impact after general manager Dave Gettleman put a premium on special teams this offseason. Broncos coach Vance Joseph has said in the past that Latimer “can be an All-Pro gunner.”
“I’m just happy to be in the league still, happy to be alive, happy to be able to play this game of football,” Latimer said. “So wherever the coaches want me, I have a good opportunity at receiver, yes I do, but on special teams I’m going to have that chance there. I’ll just balance both of them. Whichever one comes, I’m just going to be ready for it.”
What makes an effective gunner is a combination of size and speed. Latimer, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound player with 15 special teams tackles in his career, has both. To keep him in peak condition, Latimer trains in the high altitude of Denver.
“You’ve got dry air, it’s hard to breathe, it’s everything,” said Latimer, who is originally from Ohio and went on to play at Indiana University. “So I feel like once you – I’ve witnessed it – once you go back to sea level, things are much easier. You can run all day, I feel like, and that was my goal.”
Meanwhile, at an elevation in the low hundreds, Deayon prepared for his third NFL training camp in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. As an undrafted rookie, Deayon showed enough two summers ago to stick on the Giants’ practice squad. He eventually made it onto the active roster last season and appeared in four games before landing on injured reserve with a fractured forearm.
“Each year my mindset has been get better or come into camp better than you were least year,” Deayon said. “So I feel like I’ve progressed at this point. Just putting in that work even before I get there, it means a lot because I’m not trying to get in shape when camp gets here; I’m trying to already be in shape, be healthy, and really already know the grind, know my body, know what my body went through already so when I get to camp I’m not fatigued a lot. Or when I do get fatigued, I tap back in mentally like, ‘You’ve been here before, so let’s go and let’s get it.’”
Deayon ended his college career ranked fifth on Boise State's all-time interceptions list and third on the Mountain West Conference's, both of which were topped by Giants safety Darian Thompson. So playmaking is in his DNA, which is evident on nearly a daily basis at practice. However, Deayon knows what everyone thinks when they look at him – he’s too small.
“I’ve been playing football all my life just like other people and I’ve been undersized all my life, you know what I mean?” Deayon said. “It’s nothing new to me, but my instincts in making plays on the ball is where I take it to the next step. But being undersized, I know I have to put in more mentally, more physically. I’ve got to do extra. I would say that’s not a disadvantage; it’s more of an advantage because I know I’ve got to put in more work than other people.”
If there is anyone who understands what Deayon is going through, it is his trainer and former Giants defensive back Kevin Dockery, who played for the team from 2006-2009. Deayon actually has an inch on the Super Bowl XLII champion.
“When you’re undersized, usually – hopefully anyways – you’re faster than everyone,” Dockery said “You’re more flexible, meaning getting low isn’t a problem. But one of the disadvantages I would say would just be the stigma of just being undersized. Me, as a guy, always the first play I wanted to put my hands on somebody to let them know that – they come into the game thinking, ‘Oh, we’re just going to run at him or throw at him because he’s little.’ But once you knock that game plan out the window the first play, what else do they have to go to?”
Stay tuned to Giants.com throughout camp for more “Giants Life” with Latimer and Deayon.