Dynamic college secondary primed for reboot in pros

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Two college teammates will play together in primetime Sunday night:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –Donte Deayon and Darian Thompson had an ongoing competition to see who could intercept more passes when they played together in the secondary at Boise State,

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Tomorrow night, they can resume their friendly rivalry as NFL teammates in Denver.

Deayon was signed by the Giants this week off their practice squad to take the roster spot of suspended cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He will make his NFL debut tomorrow night, when the Giants face the Broncos in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

It’s uncertain exactly what role Deayon will play against Denver, but when he’s on the field he will likely line up with Thompson, his college teammate from 2012-15 and now the Giants’ starting free safety. They both joined the Giants last season, Thompson as a third-round draft choice, Deayon as a rookie free agent. Thompson played just two games before a foot injury sent him to the operating room and injured reserve. Deayon was released at the end of training camp, and spent the first six weeks of the season on the practice squad before a hamstring injury forced him to go on I.R.

He likely would have made the active roster at the start of the season had the Giants not traded for cornerback Ross Cockrell. Deayon returned to the practice squad, confident he would get his chance to play. But he didn’t think the door would open because Rodgers-Cromartie, one of his mentors, would be suspended.

“It just felt like at some point this season it would happen,” Deayon said. “I’m excited. It’s a blessing and I’m ready to rock and roll.”

“That’s a guy that truly deserves this opportunity he’s getting,” Thompson said. “He’s been making plays all spring, all summer, every day at practice. I’m excited to see him get out there and be able to play with him again.”

Off the field, Thompson is quiet and soft-spoken, while Deayon is an effusive bundle of energy. In uniform, they share a desire to steal the football from the opposing offense. At Boise, Thompson set a Mountain West Conference record and more importantly, topped Deayon in the in the interception competition, 19-17.

“I got hurt senior year,” Deayon said. “I missed like six games. That’s how he got me.”

Thompson had a career-high seven picks in 2014, when Deayon had six for the second season in a row. Yes, they combined for 13 interceptions that year.

“We were quite the duo,” Thompson said.

“I hope they didn’t use them all up,” Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

Last week, Thompson came up with the Giants’ first interception of the season against the Chargers. If history is a guide, he won’t stop there.

“We were (competing) all the time,” Thompson said. “I ended up pulling away a little bit at the end, but it seemed like every time I got one, he got one to match me. So it was a great competitive thing on our end and it ultimately helped our team win a lot of ballgames.”

“Week in, week out we kept battling to see who could get more picks. Every week,” Deayon said. “We got one in the same game a couple of times, and if it wasn’t one week, it was the next week where he would get it or I would get one. He’d get two this week, I’d get two this week. So we were going back and forth.”

Deayon is listed at 5-10 and 163 pounds, and both figures might be generous. He doesn’t like to talk about his size, because he’s heard his entire life that he’s too small to play football. But that has never deterred him.

“I’ve always been confident in myself,” Deayon said. “I’m a confident person and when you prepare well, it aids you, it helps you a lot. When I get my shot I’m going to go out there and prove what I can do.”

Spagnuolo has been impressed with Deayon since the cornerback first arrived at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Deayon made one of the Giants’ biggest plays in the preseason when he intercepted a pass against the Jets and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.

“He has energy and he’s feisty, and he’s very smart,” Spagnuolo said. “He knows football. He loves football inside and out. He’s going to probably end up being a coach someday, and he brings terrific energy. The guy has never had a bad day. He’s very confident guy in what he does, and you need that. Double D and I see eye-to-eye, because he’s the same size I am. If he’s going to play in this league, he’s got to have a little something to overcome the lack of size. But he does because he is really, really smart, he’s got some athletic skills and he’s a very bold, confident player and you need to be that in this league.”

Tomorrow night, he’ll finally get to display his skills in a regular-season game. Perhaps the only person as excited as Deayon is his former and current teammate.

“He’s the smallest guy out there, but has the biggest heart,” Thompson said. “His enthusiasm toward the game of football is off the charts.

“I’ve seen him prove people wrong over and over again. I’m not surprised by anything he does. I see it happen all the time. He’s a hard worker and he’s a playmaker. I’ll be excited to see what he does on Sunday.”

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