Calvin Munson started five games for the Giants in 2017 after going undrafted a few months earlier:
Two hundred and fifty-three names were called during the 2017 NFL Draft. Calvin Munson's was not one of them.
Munson played in 52 games at linebacker for San Diego State, where he racked up 301 tackles (159 solo), 36.5 tackles for loss, 18.0 sacks, seven interceptions – including a school-record three he returned for touchdowns – four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was first-team All-Mountain West in 2015 and 2016.
His standout collegiate career earned him a spot on the Giants' 90-man roster after going undrafted. By September, Munson was one of three rookie free agents (Shane Smith and Chad Wheeler the other two) left standing when the Giants reached the regular-season limit of 53 players.
Few, including Munson, could have imagined then that he'd be active 14 games (including five starts) and lead the Giants linebacker corps as a rookie with 60 combined tackles in 2017.
"You know, as a team, the season didn't go the way we planned," the St. Charles, Missouri, native said after the season. "But I was just blessed with a great opportunity to come in and play and just kind of showcase my abilities. I'm excited for next year and just kind of see where we go from here."
That opportunity came a lot quicker than expected. After starter B.J. Goodson suffered a shin injury in the season opener, Munson was tabbed to make the defensive calls. He suited up at middle linebacker against the Lions in Week 2 and played every defensive snap, plus 10 special-teams snaps. He finished the game with eight combined tackles and his first career sack.
"It was awesome," Munson said. "I was blessed with that opportunity. I just tried to go out there and do the best job because I knew everybody on the defense was going to have my back."
Four of the six linebackers who started the season on the 53-man roster ended the year on injured reserve. That meant more reps for Munson, and more veterans to lean on.
"I think I adjusted and grew a lot," Munson said. "You know I had a lot of help from the older guys, the vets that have been here for a while, been in that defense. So they helped me a lot. But every week I was just trying to not make the same mistakes I made the week before and just kind of grow each week."
Now comes a busy offseason for Munson in the classroom. He has a new defense to learn under new coordinator James Bettcher, and a college degree to finish up.
"You know, just let the body recover and then start getting it back in season shape," Munson said. "You know I got to go back and finish some classes and graduate, so those are sort of my goals."
*Munson was the first undrafted rookie to start at linebacker (Week 2 vs. Detroit) for the Giants since Mark Herzlich did it twice in 2011.
*Munson was not selected during the 2017 NFL Draft. He was however taken with the 935th overall pick in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. The hard-throwing right-hander led Missouri's Francis Howell High School to a state championship.