Kayvon Thibodeaux has a personality built for the Big Apple. So does his gap-toothed mentor.
Michael Strahan, who turned a Hall of Fame career into a larger-than-life media presence in his post-playing days, advised the star edge defender from the University of Oregon leading up the draft. It could be the beginning of a beautiful mentorship.
"He literally is one of my mentors, and he's been talking to me throughout this process," said Thibodeaux shortly after the Giants drafted him fifth overall on Thursday night. "He actually came to visit me when I was on my [prospect] visit with the team, so seeing him out there, that was really dope because he's given me wisdom and he even was able to speak on my behalf because we have built a relationship over the year."
As famous as he is now, Strahan knows it wouldn't have happened if he didn't produce on the field and the team didn't win.
"It's really dope because he has literally walked in my footsteps and can show me the ropes on the field and off the field," Thibodeaux said.
View photos of the Giants' draft picks as they tour their new home.
With Thibodeaux, the production has also matched the persona.
He finished tied for seventh in Oregon history with 19.0 career sacks in 31 games, and his 34.5 career tackles for loss are the fifth-most among active Power 5 players since the start of 2019. While he was one of the best players in college football, he now joins a league chock-full of players who can say the same thing.
So, how will he handle the quantum leap, especially if things don't start out well?
The New York Giants wanted to know the answer to that question during their combine interview with him back in February.
"Just giving me a hard time like what's going to happen if I'm not the star coming in?" Thibodeaux recalled of the conversation at the time. "Five games in, if I don't have a sack – this is one thing we talked about – the media is going to be down on me. I'm going to be in the doghouse. How am I going to [handle] that? And I let them know I've been in the media since I was a sophomore in high school. I've been trained for this my whole life, and I know that most of it is entertainment. So I'm not really worried because whatever happens between the four walls of the team and the organization is what's going to dictate the future. And if I have five bad games, we're going to focus on that next week and how we're going to dominate the team that is next."
That is easier said than done for some. After all, the pressure in a big-time media market is a little different than the comforts of the Ducks' campus in Eugene. Why will it work in New York?
"Because I'm hungry," said Thibodeaux, who is from South Central Los Angeles. "I'm really competitive and hungry, and I feel like New York is the pinnacle of a dog-eat-dog world."
Clearly, the Giants thought he could handle it based on all the pre-draft time they spent with him.
"I like coaching good guys," coach Brian Daboll said. "Everybody has a different personality. When you're coaching in the National Football League for 22 years, you come across a lot of different characters, and as long as they love football and they are a pro on and off the field. I have six kids, and they all have different personalities. And that's the job of a coach, too, to learn your players, what makes them tick, how to push them when they need pushed, how to hug them when they need a hug. Felt very comfortable with him."