In the middle of a 3-13 season, even Eli Manning's future was uncertain. You could only imagine how the kicker felt. But here Aldrick Rosas is.
Rosas, who made 18 of 25 field goal attempts with two blocks and missed three extra points with two more blocked attempts in his first NFL season in 2017, currently stands as the Giants' kicker with the opener against Jacksonville just days away. He, like the team, has gone through a lot to get to this Sunday.
When the Giants hired a new general manager, Rosas stayed. When the new general manager helped pick the new head coach, Rosas stayed. When the new head coach hired a new special teams coordinator, Rosas stayed. When the Giants announced their 53-man roster and made a series of waiver claims over the weekend, Rosas stayed. When the Giants opened game week prep on Monday, Rosas was there.
"I was just blessed to be back in here with competition or not," Rosas said after practice. "To see another day was just such a blessing and making it this far and still having the vote of confidence from them that I can be the guy and that I can do this. That's huge for me, and I kind of have a chip on my shoulder to come in and really perform and produce."
His main competition this offseason was Marshall Koehn, who unlike Rosas a year ago, did have at least one game of NFL regular-season experience (Koehn made one extra point for the Bengals last November and was released six days later). To shake off last season, Rosas came up with his own mental trick.
"I'm kind of doing a new thing this year where I don't care what the score is, I don't care how far the ball is, I don't care what the situation is," Rosas said. "I just know I can go out there and line up and look at my spot and (snaps finger) kick it with confidence and trusting the ball that it will go in."
It worked this summer during the preseason. Rosas converted all six of his attempts, including a career-long 55-yarder. He also made both of his extra points.
"I think just after last year, I guess the biggest thing for a kicker is just staying out of your own head," Rosas said. "So if I can just go out and pretend I'm in my backyard just kicking, that's when I feel I'm most comfortable and a sense of relief to go out there and do it and have fun with it."
Last year was a whirlwind for Rosas on and off the field. A few days before the Giants flew to Dallas for their season opener, Rosas told the team that he was expecting the birth of his daughter any day.
"I was like, 'Oh, I know. I'm not [missing the game], but after the game I'd like to fly back,'" said Rosas, who is from California. "They're like, 'All right, well yeah, that sounds good.' And then a couple minutes later, 'Well, Mr. Tisch [chairman and executive vice president Steve Tisch] is flying back to California. You can just hop on with him.'"
Karsyn was born early in the morning on Sept. 10, 2017. Hours later, the new father made his one field goal attempt from 25 yards, the Giants' only points in the loss to the Cowboys, and booted two kickoffs. Shortly after that, he was on a private plane back to the West Coast.
"That was one of the most amazing moments of my life," Rosas said. "That was pretty cool. I'm so grateful they'd do that for the kicker. It was a lot of emotions. It was my first NFL game. I just had a kid. Oh my gosh. But it was fun. It all worked out. That's one of the days I'm going to remember forever."
Karsyn's first birthday will be the day after the Giants kick off the 2018 season against the Jaguars. Rosas is planning something special for his walking and talking daughter and everyone can "reminisce where the freaking year went."
In the meantime, Rosas leans on his football family. Two-time Super Bowl champion long snapper and 12-year veteran Zak DeOssie leads the battery.
"I feel like he's been through everything," Rosas said. "Any situation, he'll be like, 'Oh, yeah, I remember in like 2011 this happened' or like 'my rookie year in '07.' And I was like, 'Dang, you've really been through it all." So he's seen it all, so it's good to have that rock that you can always lean on. He's been there. You can always rely on him to kind of hold down the situation and kind of guide us through."
His holder, third-year pro Riley Dixon, hasn't been around as long but is proving just as valuable. Rosas praises Dixon, the team's punter who led the NFL this preseason with 11 punts downed inside the 20, for his ability to get the ball down exactly how he wants it. Whether he needs it leaned one way or the other depending on the wind, Dixon's on top of it.
"He sees it one time and he's like, 'All right, I got you,'" Rosas said. "And it's just automatic after that. I'm to a point where even if it's ever a bad snap or if ever he doesn't catch the ball or whatever happens, I know he'll put the ball right at the spot. That's huge for me. I can just come in and still do my same mechanics and not have to wait on anything and I know he'll get it down. So it's been huge working with Riley."
The trio spends most of their days together, and Dixon provided some insight into what makes Rosas tick.
"That kid works hard," Dixon said. "He works hard almost to a fault. That kid takes a lot of pride in – he's hard on himself, which is good. You have to be. That guy will kick until the lights go on and until they go out, and then he'll probably kick some more. He's an awesome kid. He works hard, and he's incredibly talented. I'm excited for him and for this unit.
"He's quiet. Al's a quiet dude. He doesn't say much, but when he does, it's always something positive or encouraging. He's one of those guys who will always lead by example. Like I said, he doesn't say much, but he works harder than anybody I've ever been around. Those are the types of guys you want on your squad."