EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - After receiving a lot of production from Troy University players in recent seasons, the Giants reached down to the Alabama school to secure wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan with their third-round selection in the NFL Draft.
Jernigan, 5-8 and 181 pounds, was a four-year letterman and a three-year starter at Troy, the alma mater of two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora and dependable kicker Lawrence Tynes. He is a versatile player who will get an opportunity to help the Giants in 2011.
At Troy, Jernigan played in 50 games with 37 starts. He caught 262 passes for 3,128 yards, an 11.9-yard average, and 18 touchdowns. He was also the Trojans' wildcat quarterback, a role that enabled him to rush for 892 yards on 132 carries, a 6.8-yard average, and five touchdowns. Jernigan also completed seven of 10 passes in his career, including six of seven last season.
But that's not all he can do. Jernigan is an accomplished return man, no small detail for a Giants team that was 31st in the NFL in both kickoff and punt returns in 2010. He averaged 23.6 yards on 67 kickoff returns and 12.8 yards on 29 punt returns in his career.
"(We like) his versatility," said Marc Ross, the Giants' Director of College Scouting. "He's a little guy, but he's extremely fast. He's versatile. He's a wildcat quarterback, slot receiver, returns punts, returns kicks. I think he's the conference's all-time, all-purpose leader. High school quarterback. You love those types of guys. A great feel for the game. We had him in here. We did him at the combine. A great personality. A nice kid who's going to add some speed to our team on offense and special teams."
Ross said Jernigan can contribute on special teams beyond just returning kicks.
"He's tough enough to do the gunner stuff," Ross said. "They didn't have him do it there. You watch them play, he's on the field all the time – offense, wildcat, like I said. He's got the speed and toughness to run down as a gunner. He's going to have to earn it and he knows that. He has that mindset to do it."
In 2010, Jernigan played in 13 games with 11 starts and was named first team All-Sun Belt Conference as a receiver and all-purpose runner and second team as a kickoff returner. He set a school single-season record with 84 catches for 822 yards and six touchdowns. Jernigan finished fourth on the team with 45 carries for 322 yards (7.16-yard average) and three scores. He led the Sun Belt and ranked 14th in the nation with an average of 13.3 yards on 23 punt returns, scoring one touchdown, and finished fourth in the conference with 25 kickoff returns for 630 yards (25.2-yard average) and a school record 100-yard touchdown.
Jarrel Jernigan believes he can do a little bit of everything for the Giants.
Jernigan, whom the Giants selected yesterday on the third round, spoke to reporters today on a conference call. Although listed as a wide receiver, can also run with and throw the football, as well as return kickoffs and punts.
Jernigan, 5-8 and 181 pounds, believes one of his strongest attributes entering the NFL is his versatility.
"Yes, sir, for the simple point of the fact that I played quarterback in high school," Jernigan said. "That helped me a lot when I came to college. They had me doing a little wildcat stuff. Then I played slot and I played outside and plus special teams with kickoff and punt returns.
"People ask me that a lot, if I enjoy doing all that stuff. I tell them, I love playing with the ball in my hands, especially. So I don't have a problem with that."
Jernigan played in 50 games with 37 starts at Troy. He caught 262 passes for 3,128 yards, an 11.9-yard average, and 18 touchdowns. He was also the Trojans' wildcat quarterback, a role that enabled him to rush for 892 yards on 132 carries, a 6.8-yard average, and five touchdowns. Jernigan also completed seven of 10 passes in his career, including six of seven last season.
But given the Giants' struggles in the return game in 2010, Jernigan might get his first shot to help the team running back kickoffs and punts. The Giants ranked 31st in each category last year, though they expect to improve with the return of Domenik Hixon, Jernigan is an outstanding return man. He averaged 23.6 yards on 67 kickoff returns and 12.8 yards on 29 punt returns in his career.
Jernigan was asked what he knows about the Giants' wide receivers situation.
"I know you have great receivers in Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks," he said. "I know Steve Smith is coming off a knee injury. And you don't know how he's going to come back off his knee injury. But I just plan on coming in and learning from them and sitting back watching, but eventually getting out there and help the Giants any way that I can."
Jernigan will be the third Giants player from Troy, which is in his home state of Alabama. The others are Osi Umenyiora and Lawrence Tynes. "I haven't met Osi before but I have met Lawrence Tynes," Jernigan said. "He and I have talked. Matter of fact, he came down to Alabama a couple of weeks ago. Our coach had a 20th anniversary dinner he spoke at and we exchanged phone numbers there. I tried to call him this morning but he didn't answer. I left a voice mail for him so I'm pretty sure he'll call me back."