Donte Deayon wasn't letting go of his game balls – plural – after Thursday's preseason finale against New England.
"Man, it's lovely," he said in front of his locker with both balls sitting on a knee-high shelf inside. "They are two Patriot ones, so it feels a little better."
On his way out of the locker room, the Giants cornerback walked through a gauntlet of smiling teammates in line for some postgame food. They all remarked "You got two?" while trying to strip them out of the high-and-tight grasp he applied with one tucked in each arm. After finally slipping past the double doors, Greg Oxnard, an equipment assistant, met Deayon in the adjacent concourse. With blue canvas bags being thrown onto the loading truck behind them, Oxnard offered to take the mementos so the equipment staff could later apply the "game ball" treatment, which typically includes painting it and writing the date, score and a note about the performance, which in this case was two interceptions.
Half-embarrassed, Deayon shook his head. Oxnard said, "You're going to sleep with those, aren't you?" Deayon grinned.
The 5-foot-9, 163-pound ball of energy in shoulder pads and a helmet doesn't know the next time he might do something like he just did against the Patriots. Rosters must be reduced to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday, and Deayon has gotten the dreaded call the past two years on the one day you don't want to hear your phone ring.
"Same routine," Deayon said. "And then we will let it play out from there."
Deayon began his final audition by intercepting Danny Etling, the Patriots' starting quarterback for the game, on a deep pass down the sideline midway through the second quarter. Deayon read it and perfectly timed his jump to catch the ball, just staying in bounds as he crashed sideways onto the turf. Deayon grabbed his second one by undercutting a route with 13 seconds left in the first half.
"He did a really nice job," coach Pat Shurmur said. "And, on the flip side, I thought he did a really good job when the ball was in the air, and he caught it. It was the first interception along the sideline and then the second interception he undercut the route and did a nice job. He also had some tackles. I would say he helped himself tonight. He had a good performance."
Did Deayon feel like he needed to do something special in the game?
"My mindset is to go out and make plays, but really, I just wanted to stay engaged and stay locked in the whole game and play with good technique," Deayon said. "When opportunities come, make the plays."
Despite finishing the game with four passes defensed, three tackles and the two interceptions, Deayon has been around long enough to feel secure.
"No, because honestly last year that's how I felt going into the fourth game," Deayon said. "I felt like I kind of [re]laxed and it didn't sit well with me. I had a little sick feeling in my stomach. Going into this game, I wanted to lock in, and got out there and give it my all. We'll see what happens."
Now the countdown begins to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
"I won't be nervous," he said. "At this point, I put it all out on the table, I put my best foot forward. At this point, what happens, happens."