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2024 NFL Draft

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Malik Nabers hears comparisons but chases own greatness


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Malik Nabers has a tough act to follow, but is confident he'll become an NFL headliner for the Giants.

The fast, competitive and ultra-productive wide receiver was selected sixth in the NFL Draft by the Giants last night from LSU, a school that consistently produces great wide receivers. Among the very best in the last decade were former Giant Odell Beckham, Jr., Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson.

OBJ (2014) and Chase (2021) were selected NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jefferson received a higher honor when he was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year in 2022. Each of the three wideouts is a three-time Pro Bowler. In their pro careers, they have combined for 1,226 receptions, 17,548 yards and 114 touchdowns.

Despite their gaudy resumes, they were eclipsed at LSU by Nabers, who in three seasons set school career records with 189 receptions and 3,003 yards while scoring 21 touchdowns (14 in 2023).

Beckham and Chase, as well as Terrace Marshall (who has 64 catches in three seasons with the Carolina Panthers), were former LSU standouts who reached out to Nabers after he was drafted by the Giants.

"Those guys are just telling me be the same person that I've been the whole time," Nabers said at his introductory news conference in the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. "Keep the main thing the main thing. Don't get - you're in the league, but don't be too scared. You're still playing football. You're still that little kid that was playing football at the end of the day.

"Have fun with it. It's a fun thing to do. You're playing for the NFL, your dream that you always wanted to do. So just keep that."

That's exactly what he did in college. Nabers grew up in and played high school football in Louisiana. As a wide receiver who was rated the No. 6 prospect in the state – despite not being permitted to play as a senior – Nabers couldn't have avoided learning about LSU's tradition of greatness at the position if he wanted to. But instead of recoiling and seeking another school where he could craft a reputation, he embraced it and joined the line of eminent Tigers.

"Because I wanted to be great just like those guys," Nabers said. "I knew, if I followed in the right footsteps, go to (my) home state, they were going to show me love no matter what, and they were going to get me prepared for this day here."

What, exactly, did he learn from his predecessors?

"Just watching those guys, how they compete, how they run routes, how they were able to come from LSU and make a name for themselves in the NFL," Nabers said. "So, just hoping to follow in those guys' footsteps and make a name for myself."

View the best photos from the collegiate career of wide receiver Malik Nabers.

One player who will certainly benefit if he does is quarterback Daniel Jones, who also contacted Nabers last night.

"I actually did talk to Daniel Jones," Nabers said. "He was like, 'I'm happy you're here. We're going to hit the ground running.' He's going to learn about me, and I'm going to learn about him, and we're going to get together."

Nabers was relatively inexperienced when he arrived in Baton Rouge. He led all receivers in Louisiana with 58 catches as a junior at Ovey Comeaux High School in Lafayette. When his mother moved to Youngsville prior to his senior year, Nabers transferred to Southside High School. But so did his former defensive coordinator at Comeaux, and Louisiana forbids players from following a coach to another school. Nabers was prohibited from playing in any games and his senior year consisted solely of practicing on the scout team.

"It was very difficult seeing how the competitiveness that I have, seeing my team go out there and sometimes lose games, and I couldn't do anything about it," he said. "All I could do was just sit there. I always wanted to help, but I couldn't. That emotion was running through me every time they played on Fridays. Going out there and practicing and giving those guys extra looks, just being that guy on defense or that guy on offense that was able to play different positions at the time and just give those guys a look, they saw a different teammate in me, the teammate that wanted to help those guys win."

Nabers enrolled at LSU in May 2021, when he was 17 years old. In his debut season, Nabers caught 28 passes, scored four touchdowns, and was named to the SEC all-freshman team. The following year, Brian Kelly became LSU's head coach and hired Cortez Hankton as the receivers coach. In Nabers' final two seasons, he totaled 161 catches, 2,686 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Hankton caught 34 passes in four seasons (2003-06) with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Nabers credits his coach him for his development a receiver and preparing him for the NFL.

"(He is) my mentor, somebody that I always can go to," Nabers said. "He's going to push me to be the best player, the best man I can be. So having that guy in my corner has been a blessing."

What was the most important lesson Hankton taught Nabers?

"Learning how to be a pro athlete, learning how to put everything first, the football is first, keeping the main thing the main thing," Nabers said. "So, him teaching me all that, it's got me through a lot.

"With him, he was just teaching me how to be a pro early. He saw something in me. He knew I was going to be here. He wanted to push me into being a pro early, so when I got here, I was already going to be through it."

Now the Giants will be the beneficiaries of that tutelage as he becomes the next LSU receiver to make his mark in the NFL. Nabers said of his predecessors, he is most like Chase.

"We've got that same frame," said the 6-foot, 200-pound Nabers. "I get a lot of comparisons. I'm just focusing on trying to be the best Malik Nabers I can possibly be."

That's all the Giants can ask for.

Step into the draft room as the Giants select wide receiver Malik Nabers with their first-round pick.


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