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Rookie safety Tyler Nubin checks all the boxes for Giants


Row the boat. Ski-U-Mah. Go Gophers. Go Giants.

P.J. Fleck has added a fourth line to his sign-off with the media (or at least with the Giants’ in-house podcast network). The first phrase encompasses the head coach's never-give-up approach to football. The second, pronounced SKY-YOU-MAH, is the University of Minnesota's rallying cry. Following that are references to the college team that he has led since 2017 and the NFL organization that has drafted more of his players than any other.

Tyler Nubin became the latest when the Giants selected the safety in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft. So, why the pipeline from the Twin Cities to East Rutherford?

"I think they're NFL ready," Fleck said on the “Giants Huddle” podcast on "That [term] gets thrown around a lot across college football and even into the NFL, and what that really means for us, I think our players love their life. They love their whole life – academically, athletically, socially and spiritually. And as they go from 18 to 23 years old, this is where they grow up the most and there needs to be cultural and program things put in place for them to be able to continue to develop into those four buckets. I think that's why our guys have had so much success when they go to the National Football League, and hopefully people continue to come back to the well because they know exactly what they're getting."

Sixteen players have been drafted during Fleck's tenure in Minnesota. Four have gone to the Giants, including three currently on the team. Center John Michael Schmitz (second round in 2023) became an immediate starter as a rookie, while linebacker Carter Coughlin (seventh round in 2020) has led the Giants in special teams plays the past two seasons.

They are part of what makes the program attractive to recruits. But what attracted Fleck to Nubin?

"First and foremost is the type of person he is," Fleck said. "He's an ultimate competitor. You talk about somebody who loves football, loves his life. His mom and dad are unbelievable people. His brother (Jordan) plays here as well as a running back. His dad (Rodney) played football at Eastern Michigan. His mom (Sherese) ran track at Eastern Michigan. They both come from athletic backgrounds. They know what it takes to get to a very, very high level. His dad is very successful in the financial world and you can see that he had all those attributes of putting in the work and really studying and putting all the effort into the process, not just the result. I think that's what they did as parents is they valued the process of becoming whatever you're going to become, but pay the price during the process. I think that was critical in developing him and also recruiting him."

Pitching him at safety, however, required some salesmanship.

Coming out of St. Charles North High School in the western suburb of Chicago, Nubin wanted to be a cornerback after leading his team to its first ever state final appearance. The four-star recruit and 2018 Courier-News Football Player of the Year had also just caught 42 passes for 549 yards and nine touchdowns on top of running for 600 yards and 12 touchdowns on 109 carries from the quarterback position in his senior season.

"I told him he's going to play corner for sure, maybe a little wideout, and after like the third day he was here, I called him in my office," Fleck recalled. "I was like, 'Dude, I'm just going to tell you, I'm moving you to safety.' He goes, 'I thought I was a corner.' I was like, 'You were, but then I watched you for three days and I'm going to move you to safety and you're going to be an NFL draft pick.' And he's like, 'OK.' He was great with it, though. I think it took him a day or two to actually kind of get his brain around it, but when he could see what he could do at safety, I think that was a no-brainer for everybody."

A program-record 13 interceptions and four Academic All-Big Ten selections later, it is safe to say Fleck was onto something.

"He could have been a great wideout as well," Fleck said. "He can hit like a linebacker, he can cover like a corner, but the more space he has to be able to maneuver and be himself and be really athletic, the better he is."

View the best photos from the collegiate career of Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin.

It also didn't hurt that Fleck had the best closer in the business: Antoine Winfield Jr.

Nubin arrived on campus when the future All-Pro tied the single-season school record (modern era) with seven interceptions. Winfield, also a second-round pick, provided a blueprint for Nubin and is part of the reason why he wears No. 31.

"I think it was huge for him," said Gophers safeties coach/pass game coordinator Danny Collins, who also joined the podcast. "Antoine was a pro before he was a pro, and Tyler got to see that. Tyler got to see his study habits. He got to see how he practiced. How you do one thing is how you do everything. We say that all the time in this program, and Antoine was a great example of that. Tyler got to be that young freshman learning from him, watching him every day, absorbing him, just being a sponge. It helped him out greatly, and then it was awesome to see him rise to that level that Antoine had here and setting that example of what it means to be a safety here at the University of Minnesota."

Nubin, in turn, raised the level of everyone around him. Heading into his final season, the fifth-year senior went out of his way to learn every position on the defense so he could help line people up and know everyone's responsibility.

"I haven't [seen that before]," Collins said. "And that's what makes him really special. In the offseason, we would talk about what the WILL linebacker would do, we would talk about the rush end, because for him, he wanted to help out everybody possible. And when he does that, he allows himself to play faster as well. We always talk about it, too. It's just like when you're in an airplane and the oxygen comes down, you've got put your mask on first before you help everybody else. That's the analogy that we give these guys, and he did a great job of understanding and mastering his job that in the offseason now he can learn the other jobs to help as much as possible."

The coaching staff even took pictures of Nubin's notes to show current players how to study properly.

"He has this rolodex and this brain that is almost like a photographic mind," Fleck said. "If he gets beat once, he knows how he got beat, what he got beat with, and he knows the tendencies of that. He studies that, and rarely do you get him again. In fact, he probably gets you the next time. He constantly takes things off the board for offenses because you're only going to be able to use it once."

That covers the "smart" part.

Nubin, who played six games on a torn meniscus last year, also checks the "tough" and "dependable" boxes for coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen.

"[He's] going to be a reflection of what Coach Daboll is trying to build," Fleck said. "I think that goes hand in hand. He'll never put himself before a team. He never did that here. He had plenty of opportunities to do that and he never did that. Even when he came back for his last year, he could have easily, probably been drafted in the second or third round last year. He decided to come back for not only himself and help his draft stock, but it was for the team. It was for beating Iowa, which we hadn't done here, and he did that. So, he put all these things before himself, and I think that's what he's going to do with the Giants."

"I remember Antoine Winfield Jr. getting hurt and he got hurt a few times before he actually had some really good seasons with us," Collins said. "And you go up to him and he'd be smiling and be like, 'What's wrong? It's football, coach. It's just football. It happens. I'll be back. It happens.' Tyler is the same way. He loves everything that has to do with football. He's everything that the Giants organization is about. He's really smart. He's tough. He's dependable. It's everything that Daboll talks about and what a New York Giants football player is all about. It's going to be a perfect fit."


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