EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Only five players were selected in the 2023 NFL Draft after Gervarrius Owens, who was taken by the Giants at No. 254 overall – long after commissioner Roger Goodell had stopped announcing each pick. But the reaction in the Owens household was just as emotional as it would have been had he been chosen No. 1.
"Man, it was crazy to say the least, just hearing my name called," he said today. "It's a childhood dream since I was like eight years old. Just kind of waiting on this day, so for it to come full circle was just a blessing. All my family and friends were around me, so just being surrounded by all that love, it just really put everything in perspective for me. I'm definitely blessed to be here and going to get to work for sure."
Owens spoke publicly for the first time since he was drafted last Saturday as the Giants opened their rookie minicamp. The team's seven draft choices, nine newly signed undrafted free agents, 52 players trying out and five players on the roster who were eligible to participate were on the field.
Like all of them, Owens, a safety from the University of Houston, was trying to get his bearings while also learning the defense and impressing the coaches.
"It was just crazy, just first day, like I said, you dream of this moment so long, then it hits you," he said. "Like the first day, me, (Deonte) Banks and Tre Hawkins (the Giants' other draftees in the secondary) running out to the field like, 'man, it's time, we're really here.' Just trying to soak everything in, but at the same time everything is so fresh, so it's just kind of all over the place.
The first day was definitely a blessing. Got in, got some good work together, so kind of just getting acclimated to everything, but it's a blessing. That's all I can really say."
Owens began his collegiate career at Northeast Oklahoma A&M before joining the Cougars, for whom he played in 46 games with 42 starts. He was credited with 195 tackles (132 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 21 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two blocked kicks. Owens was selected first-team All-AAC as a junior and second team as a senior. In 2022, he started all 12 games in which he played – and missed one with a concussion – and logged a career-high 74 tackles (54 solo), one interception and nine passes defensed.
What kind of player are the Giants getting in Owens?
"Somebody that's willing to come in from day one, a hardhat guy and do the work every single day, making corrections, cleaning up footwork and things like that," he said. "Just learning the defense and stuff and just getting everybody ready."
Hawkins is the Giants' other third-day defensive back selection, a sixth-round corner from Old Dominion who said his best attribute is his physicality.
"I'm physical," he said. "I'm versatile. I can play anywhere in the back end, and my speed, length and strength (are also attributes).
"I guess I would say I was kind of born with it (his physicality), growing up with older cousins and you're kind of getting picked on. You've got to be kind of the tough dog out of the little family. I kind of was born with it, kind of groomed into it."
Hawkins played two years at Trinity Valley Community College in his native Texas before transferring to Old Dominion, where he started all 25 games the last two years. He totaled 133 tackles (98 solo), including five stops for loss, two interceptions, 13 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His 76 tackles in 2021 were a school record for a cornerback.
Though he was selected 209th overall in the draft, Hawkins doesn't lack for confidence.
"I could see myself playing anywhere in the NFL," he said. "I can fit any scheme."
View photos of the locker room and the 2023 class getting fitted for equipment ahead of rookie minicamp.
*Banks was chosen 24th overall after general manager Joe Schoen traded with Jacksonville to move up one spot in the first round. Because he was taken two days after multiple rounds ahead of Hawkins and Owens, Banks will face more scrutiny.
"I feel like there's no pressure on me," he said. "I'm just ready to work. … Right now, I'm just trying to get better every day, be a better player every day."
*Coach Brian Daboll spoke to the media before the first workout.
"We'll have two days here of work," he said. "I wouldn't say extensive work, just kind of get their feet wet. But it was good to get the players in here yesterday and get to meet a bunch of new guys."
*Three quarterbacks are in camp. Tommy DeVito of Illinois was signed, while Clemson's Hunter Johnson and Virginia's Bryce Perkins are on tryouts. They had evening and morning meetings to learn the offense before hitting the field, but Daboll wasn't expecting perfection.
"There's going to be mistakes," he said. "We had a walk-through. There was plenty of them. You don't install very many plays I would say, just because for some of these tryout guys, too, you want to be able to evaluate what they can do physically relative to running around, cutting, things like that, and sometimes you give them too much, they're thinking, and you don't see the true talent of the player.
"I'd say we'll take it slow. We don't have, again, very many plays in for those guys to go out there and be able to try to execute, which again, they've never thrown with the players they're throwing with. There's a lot that goes into it. That's why we're going to ease into these next two days here."
*The opening of the rookie camp included numerous player transactions.
The Giants signed two defensive veterans: lineman Dexter Lawrence to a four-year extension and free agent linebacker Oshane Ximines.
In four seasons, Ximines has played in 45 games with nine starts. His totals include 65 tackles (34 solo), 6.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 22 quarterback hits, six passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In 2022, Ximines played in 15 regular-season games with 4 starts and played in both Giants postseason games. He tied his career high with 24 tackles (15 solo) and had 2.0 sacks, three tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
The Giants signed three of their seven draft choices, including running back Eric Gray of Oklahoma (fifth round), Hawkins and Owens.
They also signed nine rookie free agents. In addition to DeVito, they are defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado of Pittsburgh, linebacker Troy Brown of Mississippi and Dyontae Johnson of Toledo, defensive backs Alex Cook of Washington and Gemon Green of Michigan, wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton of West Virginia, tight end Ryan Jones of East Carolina, and long-snapper Cameron Lyons of UNC-Charlotte.
Guard Solomon Kindley was waived, and defensive back Terrell Burgess was waived/injured.
View photos of all of the Giants' 2023 undrafted free agent signings.