EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Sam Madison hopes his part-time job with the Giants leads to a full-time gig in the NFL.
"My eventual goal is to coach DBs in the National Football League," Madison said.
To help him realize that ambition, the former cornerback is spending three weeks as a training camp secondary coach for the Giants, the team he played for in the final three seasons of a 12-year career.
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Madison's knowledge of and love for football developed when he was one of the NFL's finest corners. He played his first nine seasons for the Miami Dolphins, with whom he was a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Madison joined the Giants in 2006 and the next year was a starter on the Super Bowl XLII champions. He retired following the 2008 season with a legion of friends and followers.
Madison works for the Miami Dolphins, most often on shows broadcast on the team's website. "It's called 'Finsiders,'" Madison said. "We're year-round, we talk nothing but Dolphins."
But he wanted to be involved in the game, not just discuss it. Madison worked in St. Louis when Steve Spagnuolo, the former Giants defensive coordinator, was the Rams' head coach. Once bitten, he couldn't shed the coaching bug. So Madison called one of his admirers, Giants coach Tom Coughlin, and asked if he could help the Giants' secondary coaches, Peter Giunta and
David Merritt, in training camp. Coughlin quickly gave his consent.
"Sam wants to coach," Coughlin said. "For us, I think it's a win-win situation. We can help him in regard to giving him a chance to come and coach and be with us and for people to observe that he's coaching at this level. Of course, he's an outstanding corner and knows a lot about that position. Our players will benefit from Sam being here."
Some of those players are his former teammates. Corey Webster was a second-year pro when Webster arrived in 2006. When he was benched in 2007, it was Madison who provided encouragement and insisted the team would need him. Webster played well as a starter in that postseason and has been in the lineup ever since.
"It's a blessing having Sam back," Webster said. "Just knowing where he took me from as a youngster. He was teaching us. It doesn't stop now, it's a different level. When we played together for those three years it was a big brother thing. He's learned more, he's evolved more so now he's coming back from a different angle, a coach's perspective, and being able to reinstall all those things that he taught me at a younger age, but with even more detail because he's seeing it from different eyes. He can focus and concentrate on just what I'm doing and correct all my mistakes. So, it's a blessing, I'm happy, I'm grateful, I love it. He's talking to us on the sideline, he's being very detailed and I think that's going to make us a much better secondary and make me a much better player."
Cornerback Aaron Ross was the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2007 and spent two years working under Madison's tutelage. After spending a season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ross is glad Madison also found his way back here from Florida.
"I'm more than excited," Ross said. "It reminded me of when I first got out here, he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He pulled me to the side and told me how to play, what position I need to be in when I'm pressing, so it just kind of took me back to those old days. He's a great guy to be around, always has a smile on his face, and you know when he's telling you something, he's one of those guys that has been through it. He's an all-pro in this league and you just want to take as much knowledge from him as you can. So, I'm very excited he's back here helping us."
The only difference between Madison the player and Madison the coach is he's no longer wearing pads and a helmet. A snap does not pass without him talking, gesturing, moving and emoting as only Madison can. The man is unable to stand still or remain silent and few people seem to enjoy themselves as much as Madison does.
"He's the same guy," Ross said. "He's always got the big smile on his face, the Kool-Aid smile. He's Sam. He'll get on you, he's going to tell you the truth, like it or not, and he's going to come up the next day and smack you on the butt and tell you it's alright."
Since retiring, Madison has found other means to satisfy is competitiveness. He's helped prepare college stars for the scouting combine and NFL Draft (including current Giants Stevie Brown, Will Hill and Junior Mertile). Madison has a 10-year-old son who is beginning his second season of tackle football. He has "five or six" youngsters he trains for lacrosse. "It's still finding that sweet spot in your game and being able to change directions and being able to make plays so, I'm all across the board," he said.
Last week, Madison and his wife, Saskia, ran a half marathon in California from Napa to Sonoma. "I'm not going to tell you my time," he said. "Everybody got the same medal, so I'm just going to say I came in first."
None of that, however, compares to being immersed in the game he loves.
"I have to be on somebody's football field," Madison said. "I'm still always on the football field, trying to give a little of the knowledge that I have. I like training athletes and trying to get them better and I've been doing a pretty good job. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I try to give whoever I'm working with an opportunity to become quicker, faster, stronger and just understand the basic concepts of their body.
"Hopefully, I can just help these guys and instill the little small things so when I'm not here, they still have them and coach Pete (Giunta) can continue the things I am trying to relay to them."