EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Ereck Flowers plays on offense and Landon Collins is on defense, but the Giants' two top draft choices seemed more similar than different at introductory news conferences today in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Flowers, the massive tackle from Miami selected on the first round, and Collins, the Alabama safety the Giants chose with the opening pick in the second round, are both soft-spoken and economical with words. Neither had previously visited New York or Jersey. Each is eager to begin working as professionals at next week's rookie minicamp, and both believe they can step into their respective starting lineups as rookies.
And perhaps most exciting to the Giants, they stressed the physicality they bring to the field, an attribute that attracted them to the team's front office and coaches.
"It is how you were taught to play," said Flowers, who checks in at an impressive 6-6 and 329 pounds. "In high school (Norland H.S. in Miami), the coaches I had – we had to play a certain way. After playing a certain way, it just becomes who you are. I can't really sit here and say I have a certain mindset. It is just how I play."
Collins recorded 190 tackles in three seasons for the Crimson Tide, many of them as an in-the-box safety charged with stopping the run. Collins had to be physical to survive and succeed.
"That is how I play the game," he said. "That is my passion for the game, to make sure I make plays on the ball and be around it and make sure I make the tackle and make sure they don't score. That is just how I am. I always try to make plays and make physical plays as much as possible. You make a physical play, you knock the ball out or cause a fumble or you knock the ball out of the receiver's hands when they try to catch it. That is my type of game."
Collins conceded he was bothered by the perception that he was *only *a box safety, and, with it, the connotation that he was weaker in pass coverage.
"I played in the box at Alabama, but I was a safety," he said. "It was not an in-the-box safety. I played free, strong and played our money position, which was our fifth (defensive back) on the field. (I) was not just an in-the-box safety."
Collins had a whirlwind 48 hours. He was in Chicago for the first day of the draft, but returned home to New Orleans when he was not chosen on the first round. The Giants traded up to select him yesterday evening and before dawn this morning he was on a flight to Newark.
"It has been crazy," he said. "I haven't gotten that much sleep. I tried to celebrate, but I couldn't really celebrate because I had to get up for an early flight to get up here. It has been fantastic. It is a great feeling. To visit here and be here is fantastic.
"This is my first time in New Jersey or New York. I am definitely going to try to experience it when I get out here."
Flowers arrived here yesterday with his father, Everald, and two uncles. Last night, he threw out the first pitch at the Mets-Nationals game in Citi Field.
"It was pretty good," said Flowers, who guessed he had last thrown a baseball in the fifth grade. "I had a pretty good pitch."
Flowers grew up in Miami and immediately noticed a difference between his longtime home and his new one.
"There is a lot more traffic, a lot more going on," he said. "The city never really sleeps. I like it. It is going pretty good."
But moving 1,200 miles north and signing a big contract at age 21 is not going to change Flowers' daily routine.
"Same thing, just focus on football," he said. "Clock in and clock out. Get the job done."
Photos of Alabama Safety Landon Collins
That's exactly Collins' mindset. He believes his work ethic, combined with his three seasons playing in one of college football's premier programs, prepared him to start as an NFL rookie.
"Alabama prepared me for that," he said. "Being under Coach (Nick) Saban, he doesn't coach us as freshmen, he coaches us as juniors, and he puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as an 18-year-old. I have the upmost respect for him because of that. Going through that process, it helped a lot because it made me a man, the person, the player and the leader that I am today and a smart player knowing the game. Definitely the school and coach Saban have helped me a long way with that."
And now it's the Giants who will benefit.
- Collins was given jersey No. 27 today to hold while he posed for photographs, but he will request the equipment staff give him No. 26. That was the number worn by his idol, the late Sean Taylor.
No. 26 was worn the previous five seasons by another outstanding safety, Antrel Rolle, who is now with the Chicago Bears.
"He's a big safety, too," Collins said. "He's fast and a great guy. He knows the game very well."
Photos of Miami OL Ereck Flowers