One, two, three…team.
Linebacker Jake Muasau knew that wouldn't be the final huddle he broke in a Giants uniform, but it was looking bleak that day in early May.
After the final practice of rookie minicamp, drafted players and undrafted free agents who had already signed with the team were separated from the tryout players. There Muasau took a knee along with the 30 or so NFL hopefuls and were told thanks for coming out by a member of the personnel staff.
"Pretty much saying best of luck in whatever you're doing next," Muasau recalled on Friday.
Then coach Tom Coughlin made his way over to their part of the field and gave a similar speech. Muasau, with no other teams on his radar, knew this couldn't be the end.
"I'm thinking this can't be it, Lord. I'm just talking to myself, saying this can't be it," he continued. "[Coughlin] brought it in and said just stay ready and we broke the huddle, 'Team on three – one, two, three, team.' I took one step out and one of the Giants scouts was in my face saying, 'Jake, just wanted to let you know we love you, you had a great camp and we want to sign you.'"
Now almost a month later, Muasau is entering his fourth week of OTAs and still counting his blessings.
Born in Tacoma, Wash., Muasau's father, a pastor, moved the family to California shortly after and then eventually to Arizona before his teen years. During this time, however, Muasau's family life began to unravel and reached a low point when his father passed away when Jake was 13.
"Growing up, my family was too poor to get involved with peewee football. So it was rough. I wouldn't say we had the typical road to glory," Muasau said. "I took a tough road, but at the end of the day, I feel it only made me the man I am today -- living on park benches, living out of vehicles growing up. My mother actually had a mental disability, my father passed away, my oldest brother is locked up. During all this commotion, me and my other older brother, Louie, who I'm really close with, we were in a group home at this time. So nothing could get worse and that's when we switched our whole mentality to like something's got to give."
Jake and his brother Louie became a positive force in the community, as did their football skills. Growing up playing on the side of apartment complexes and on the street, they excelled on the field in high school, and Jake was being heavily recruited. However, when Louie went off to college, Jake lost his guidance and fell into trouble as a senior.
As a result, colleges starting backing away from Muasau (who played safety in high school) and he lost his verbal commitment to Nebraska. Jake then decided to rejoin his brother in the junior college ranks at Phoenix College.
Two seasons later, an opportunity of a lifetime opened up to the brothers.
Longtime coach Bill Curry was in the process of establishing and building the Georgia State Panthers football program and had his eyes on Jake and Louie in 2010 for the first season in school history.
"We wanted to try to stay together, and Georgia State was actually the only school that wanted us both," Jake said. "So we said, hey, let's do it. It's a new program. We wanted to help build a new program and make history. So 30-40 years from now, we'll be able to say we were on that first team."
Muasau had NFL aspirations, but he just didn't know he'd end up with the defending Super Bowl champions. And maybe not at middle linebacker.
At Georgia State, Muasau played a hybrid position termed "Bandit," which was a combination of outside linebacker and standup defensive end. Now he's in the middle and looking the part. So much so that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell thought he was former Giants linebacker Kawika Mitchell the first time he saw him. Perhaps it was the trademark long hair of Muasau [pronounced MWAH-sow], who has Samoan roots.
"He comes to the meeting room, he's prepared," Fewell said this past Wednesday. "[Linebackers] Coach [Jim Hermmann] has done a nice job of getting him focused on what to do. We saw something in him at rookie minicamp and said 'Hey, let's give this guy a shot' because he was really professional at how he went about his work and business. We think if we give him the opportunity to get enough reps at the position he's playing right now, we might find something. Obviously, preseason games will tell, but we like what we saw in rookie minicamp and we like what we've seen in these three OTAs."
Meanwhile, Muasau can turn to his brother, who played the position.
"Even at Georgia State, I always said to my brother, 'I don't know how you do it.' I'm glad I had my brother playing next to me," Muasau said. "When I came to the Giants and they threw me at middle linebacker, I'm like, 'Whoa.' At Mike linebacker, you've got to learn both sides, but the transition is going smoothly. I'm just trying to learn the playbook and learn day by day.
"It's a true blessing, especially coming here on a trial basis and then actually impressing the coaches. I was just amazed at that, and then just to be able to play with the stature of this team and to be able to compete with these guys, it's just an amazing feeling to put on the New York Giants helmet and a jersey with my number on it."