DETROIT - Media and fans routinely downplay the significance of NFL preseason games, but to rookies who have never played a down of pro football they are exciting and important.
Fifteen rookies are expected to play for the Giants Friday when they open their three-game preseason against the Detroit Lions in Ford Field.
"It's a good opportunity for a lot of young guys," coach Brian Daboll said.
The two teams practiced together Tuesday and Wednesday at the Lions' facility in nearby Allen Park. While many details of the game, including the final score, will soon be forgotten, it will be an exhilarating and memorable night for those who will play in an NFL game in an NFL stadium for the first time.
"I'm really excited for it," said cornerback Deonte Banks, the Giants' 2023 first-round draft choice. "Really excited, just cause it's my first one, being in those big stadiums. It's my first one and it's a warm-up to get ready for all the rest of the games that are coming."
View photos from Detroit, where the Giants and Lions held joint practices ahead of their preseason opener.
Like Banks, center John Michael Schmitz, the team's second-round draft choice, is on track to start in the regular-season opener a month from today against Dallas. But he plans to pause for a moment and reflect on a lifelong football journey that brought him to the NFL.
"You've got to take a moment," Schmitz said. "It's about the little things in life, just walking out on the field for the first time is going to be something special. You've got to always be thankful for every opportunity you're given and grateful for it, you can't let it slip by.
"I've been playing this game since I was five years old. It was always a dream of mine to play in the NFL. Now we're here and now it's just to take advantage of those opportunities you're given and don't look back, just take it one play at a time, one practice at a time and just go on from there."
All seven of the Giants' draft choices are expected to play. In addition to Banks and Schmitz, the others are wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, running back Eric Gray, cornerback Tre Hawkins, defensive lineman Jordon Riley and safety Gervarrius Owens.
"Definitely a blessing for me, just to go out there with the guys, my teammates," said Hyatt, the speedy wide receiver from Tennessee selected in the third round. "I'm ready to show what I can do. It's going to be fun. I've always wanted to be in the league, always wanted to be in the NFL. To be here with the Giants is a dream come true."
"I think it's going to be a great opportunity for me," said Gray, a running back chosen in the fifth round from Oklahoma. "I've dreamed about it my whole life, of playing in an NFL game. You go into any elementary school right now and you ask kids what they want to be and it's going to be an NFL player. Just being able to soak it all in. I remember when I first got to college I used to look up during the middle of the game and say, 'Wow, I'm really in college.' It will probably be the same thing Friday night, be like, 'Wow, I'm really playing for an NFL team right now.' It's going to be amazing."
The Giants coaches are also eager to evaluate several rookie free agents, including linebacker Dyontae Johnson, wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton and safety Gemon Green.
But perhaps the most intriguing undrafted rookie is quarterback Tommy DeVito, who grew up 15 minutes from MetLife Stadium. Third on the depth chart behind Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor, he has had some impressive moments in training camp.
"(He has progressed) little by little each day," Daboll said. "You don't get as many reps, obviously, as the other two quarterbacks. He knows he has to make the most of the ones he has. He will get some playing time in the preseason, and we will see where he's at. Like everybody else, he has a way to go."
DeVito was a highly recruited player who began his collegiate career at Syracuse and ended it at Illinois. Like all undrafted rookies, he began camp at the back of the depth chart and with long odds to make the final roster – perhaps greater than most because he is a quarterback.
But Friday, he will have an opportunity to show what he can do in an NFL game.
"Excitement, just excitement," DeVito said when asked what his emotions will be. "It's a childhood dream come true. To be able to wear a jersey and play in a game, even though it's a preseason one. But it's a football game, so just looking forward to the opportunity. The younger me would be happy."
DeVito has bonded with Jones and Taylor and the veterans have offered pointers on what to expect in his first game.
"I'm gonna get hit," he said with a laugh. "That's the biggest thing. I'm gonna treat it the same as practice, but the difference is I'm going to get hit."
DeVito said he is normally "pretty calm" before a game.
"I think I'll have the same mindset going into it," he said. "I try to have the same mindset in practice like a game, so I don't get too worked up about it. There's definitely going to be some butterflies and excitement, this being the first one, but it's all going to be for the better."
DeVito is one of several rookies who will have family members in attendance, another indication of the importance of this game for the youngsters.
"I have my parents coming out, my brother, a couple friends," DeVito said. "They're going to enjoy it."
Schmitz was raised about 3½ hours from here and he expects about 15 members of his immediate and extended family to be in Ford Field.
"You gotta have the good support from your family," Schmitz said. "Just recognize the ones that got you there and helped you along with your journey. It means the world to me that they're going to be out there supporting me."
View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 roster as it currently stands.