There is no ice in Alabama, but Jim Nagy imported plexiglass to Mobile like he was hosting a showcase event for college hockey instead of football. Such was reality for the executive director of the Senior Bowl amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nagy and his staff adjusted the 2021 version to make it as safe as possible for the players and NFL staff. His revised plans included retrofitting space for interviews, which proved to be invaluable as the usual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis was canceled.
It was during one of these face-to-face meetings, a rarity in this year's pandemic-stricken draft process, that Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney started to win over the Giants, who drafted him with the 20th overall selection on Thursday night.
"We were all tired," Giants director of college scouting Chris Pettit recalled of their late-night interview. "That process down there was pretty strenuous of going back to back to back of these long interviews, which was great. But it was late in the night and we were tired. We were talking through plexiglass and everyone had masks on, and he brought energy at that point. We love that. He brought energy to the room, to the conversation. [He] was easy to talk to, was open and honest and we loved everything about that conversation."
On the other end, Toney didn't notice their exhaustion. He used another word to describe the Giants' contingent.
"They were very serious," Toney said. "So, I made sure on my end that I was up to par, on point."
View photos of the 20th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The limitations to the scouting process left many unknowns in the 2021 class, which was part of the reason why the Giants traded back from No. 11 and picked up a first- and fourth-round selection in next year's draft. By then, things should be back to normal.
"It was very important to get the first round pick next year," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "As I told you guys at my pre-draft presser, there's a lot of unknowns here with this group, and plus a lot of kids went back and took advantage of the NCAA giving them an additional year of eligibility. That obviously played into our thinking."
Nevertheless, the Giants tried to turn over every stone possible. That included utilizing senior defensive assistant Jeremy Pruitt, who joined the Giants from the college ranks and recruited Toney out of high school.
"You know, the skill and the person has to add up together," coach Joe Judge said. "We fully vetted every player on this board. We are very comfortable bringing him to New Jersey. We are very comfortable adding him to our roster to compete with other players on the team. Listen, we use every resource we have. … In terms of anything else off the field, again, look, it's no secret I'm pretty particular about who I bring into this building. I think sometimes you have to understand the person, and you have to understand the character on a deeper level than what just may be tweeted out."