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Summer Q&A: Robert Ayers talks Giant Pride


Go behind-the-scenes of the Giants video prompt photo shoot!

Summer is upon us, Giants fans.

While we won't see the players on the field again until training camp beginning July 30, we have something to hold you over in the meantime.

During their photo shoots at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, caught up with the team before the break to get to know the players a little better on and off the field.



What does 'Giants Pride' mean to you?**

  • Ayers:It means a lot to me because I grew up in this area and I know what it means to the community to see a great team come out and play on Sundays and Monday nights. It's not that I am just playing for myself; I am playing for other people that love us and the way that the Giants perform on Sunday. It dictates how a lot of people's weeks go throughout the following week, so when the Giants aren't playing well on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, it's not good for a lot of people. So we definitely want to put smiles on people's faces and represent the community and the organization and the team, the name on our back and the logo on our helmets. So it means a lot to me.

Where did you get that sense of pride?

  • Ayers:My father was big on representing yourself well and he always told me when I am going on the field or whatever you do, whether it's football or anything that isn't athletic, whether it be a school or whatever you're putting your name on and stamp on, you represent yourself. You represent your family. You represent your name, and to have that pride in yourself was instilled in me early and now that I am a part of a great organization and team and unit that has a rich tradition of playing good defense and good defensive linemen, it carries over to this. And I give a lot of credit to my dad and for teaching me those things at a young age. Now that I'm an adult and a grown man, it has carried over to a lot of things. So those early things that I learned carry and define me going forward.

How important is it to carry on the Giants' defensive tradition?

  • Ayers:It's big because there has been a standard that has been set. It's hard to reach the level of Michael Strahan for me, to say that I want to be at that level it's very hard, but there is a standard of effort that we have to hold in the way we play the game, the tenacity. Win, lose, or draw, we have to play with a certain edge and mentality and a desire to win, and as long as we can carry that, I think that we will be successful upholding a legacy. It's not just about wins and losses. It's about the way you play and the way that you carry yourself and the way that you perform and the attitude that you bring to the field.

What keeps you going through the grind of a season?

  • Ayers:For me it's easy to keep it going because I hate to lose. I hate to lose more than I love to win. I'm a terrible loser; I'm a sore loser. People that go against me know that. I hate to be blocked, I hate to be held, I hate to lose. That drives me because I hate the idea of another person beating me at something. I hate the idea that another team was better than us or more prepared or worked harder or whatever it is. I hate that. Every week I know that team's trying to beat us and this player's going to try to dominate me so that keeps me going. I don't want anybody to dominate me, I don't want anybody to say that they blocked Robert Ayers or they stopped Robert Ayers or they destroyed him or whatever they may think. That's my motivation every week, just to go out and prove people wrong and not lose.

What's your favorite youth football story?

  • Ayers:Actually my youth football stories go back to with my dad. For me, I didn't really play much as a child. I started seriously in high school, but my dad, he was a big influence in me being a part of the game. I always reflect back to when he always used to tell stories about when I was born he put the football in my hands. One of my youngest pictures he gave me a football, that's what he played growing up. He loved the game so I just refer back to that whenever I want a smile on my face. I reflect back to the times where he had me out at 11 at night catching footballs in the park and doing things like that to try and get me better and try to keep me motivated. Those are my youth football stories.


What has the reception been like coming to the Giants?

  • Vereen:It was definitely warm, a warm welcome. I felt very at home, very accepted right off the bat, which is good coming to a place that's familiar. Coming in already feeling welcomed and already feeling a part of something special, it meant a lot.

What makes you unique?

  • **

Vereen: **I think what makes me unique is just the way I approach the game. I think about the game a little bit differently than most running backs do. I don't have the big size as the big bruiser backs,

I have some speed, I have some good quickness. I kind of look at the game differently, I take pride in doing all things that's asked of a running back. Me out in the open field against linebackers or one-on-one with safeties, those are matchups that I look for.

Those are things that I like I don't know if other running backs perceive the game in that way. I really like the open field, catching the ball out in the backfield, being able to catch and run as well as getting the ball behind the line of scrimmage. I think just the way that I perceive the game and the way that I study, the way that I look at it might be a little different than other backs.

What does it take for a running back to become a great receiver?

  • Vereen:I think it's just being able to encompass all of your roles. So often running backs are just taught to just run with the ball, just hold onto it and run as hard as you can.

You can score touchdowns that way, but when you are able to be in an offense or in a system where you're asked to do so many different things outside the box and run a route, you're asked to swing, catch screens left and right and if you really fully encompass that and all of those characteristics those type of offenses ask of a running back, then it can only make you a better player.

When did the love of the game develop?

  • Vereen:It developed early. I was fortunate enough to be on a very good little league Pop Warner team where football was culture, where football was life. We were good and I just think that those band of guys that I grew up with are still really close and I'm still friends with all of them. Just our success, our ability that we had to play well and also had fun, I think that that has just stuck with me up until this point.

Who inspired you?

  • Vereen:If there is anybody, it would be my dad. He played in college. He played a little bit in the pros and went to Canada to play a year or two, but he was never over forceful with football. He kind of let me walk into it and gave me guidance when I needed it. He was never pushy, he let me figure it out for myself, but every time I had a question or ever needed him , he was there and he was always able to give me some good advice as well as some good criticism when I deserved it as well.

What will it be like going against the Patriots, your former team?

  • **

Vereen: **You know that will be a special game. It'll be fun getting a chance to go against my old teammates, my old friends who I am still friends with, still close with.

But just being able to compete against them under the lights, I think that it will be a fun opportunity not just for me but for them.

It will be a competitive game, I know that much.



Your favorite superhero.

TV show.

Favorite actor.
Jamie Foxx.

Angelina Jolie.

Karaoke song.
Biggie Small, Juicy.

Walk-up song.
It would have to be Jay Z, Encore.

What does 'Giants Pride' mean to you?

  • Cruz:It just means that I am in this for the long haul, that I am in this with my team together. We are going to come out here and fight as a unit and whenever I touch that thing it is just a reminder that I am here for my entire team, that I am holding myself accountable and making sure that I am doing the things that I need to do to perform at the highest level for my team and my teammates.

What's your favorite youth football story?

  • Cruz:My favorite youth football story has to be my very first football game. I remember I started out playing center and my dad was one of the assistant coaches and he begged the head coach to put me at running back, 'Just one play, put him back there and give him the ball and see what happens. If he goes backwards or something then it's my fault.' I ended up getting the ball, they put me at fullback, I got the ball, I made two defenders miss and I took it for about 60 yards for a touchdown and he looked at the head coach and was like, 'I told you.' That was probably one of the best moments of youth football for me.

What about your most embarrassing story?

  • Cruz:The most embarrassing story had to be, it was in youth football as well, one of my first couple games and I'm still learning how to play the game. My brother is on the field with me and I'm on defense and they had me as an interior lineman or something like that. They were telling me to bump, I guess they made a bump call and I just stood still, I didn't know what happened. My brother literally came, picked me up and pushed me over to the other side and then I stood up and then they snapped the ball and I got steamrolled off the line. It was probably one of the worst moments of my life. They didn't stop talking about it. To this day they still talk about it.

What's the best thing somebody ever tweeted about you?

  • Cruz:The best thing somebody ever tweeted about me is that they said I was their kid's role model because after a game I was headed out and I could have just kept going but I stopped to talk to one kid. He was by himself and I said hello. The parent tweeted me and said that I was a role model because I took time out of my day to say hello to their son.


What does 'Giants Pride' mean to you?

  • Richburg:Just to think of the history of so many great players here who had that Giant pride and I get to call myself a New York Giant and to be able to touch that sign on the way out is an honor. To be a part of such a great organization, you feel the pride of being here with the Giants.

Who has been a big influence in your life?

  • Richburg:My Dad played a huge role early on in my life. Sometimes I didn't get along with him too well, but he taught me to work hard. If you want good results in something, you've got to put hard work into it and then the pride comes with the finished product you put out there. I learned early on if you want to have something good going on, you have to be prideful and work hard to get something achieved.

What keeps you going through the grind of a season?

  • Richburg:My love for the game of football has definitely increased the more years I have spent playing the game. In high school, it's just what everybody does, especially being from Texas, that's what everybody does. I began to love it more [in college], but having the opportunity to play in the NFL, I mean it's something that not many get to do, so I'm able to sit back sometimes and just realize how blessed I am to be able to do this, and it's definitely increased my love for it. I'd way rather do this than be stuck in an office filling out paperwork or something. I get to go outside and hit people every day, so I love it, it's great.



Your favorite superhero?

Favorite Toy?

Favorite TV show?

Favorite sport besides football?

Vacation Destination?

When did you start to love football?

  • Owa:For me, football is a game that I've loved for a long time since I started playing in middle school. There was just something about how fun it was being out there, the team aspect of the game that I really love. But it wasn't until high school that I really fell in love with the game, just playing at a higher level every year and getting better and better and just developing my skill really made me fall in love and made me want to play hard every time I step onto the field. So that's always carried with me and it carried over to college and it got me what I accomplished there with my team and it got me here and I'm just looking forward to seeing what it also allows me to accomplish. But the love for the game is strong, and getting up every day and playing football for a living is pretty fun. What is your favorite youth football story?
  • Owa: It's hard to say. I want to say my sophomore year in high school…I made a really big play in a game and everybody was really excited and I was super excited and it really sparked my confidence. It upped my confidence and I really thought to myself, 'Wow I can do this, I can really play this game and play it well if I just keep at it.' And I think that was kind of the theme that was going on that year, my first year on varsity playing at a higher level. I think that year there were a lot of incidents that really gave me a lot of confidence and that was one of them. What makes you unique?
  • Owa:For me, I personally believe everybody's unique and for me I try to see the good in everybody's potential when it comes to football. Playing on a team, I like to see how everybody's valuable, and I don't know if that makes me different but I think for me it allows me to be more about the team when I'm thinking about, 'Man this guy really does this well, this guy does that well.' When I'm on the team, I want to do my best to be contributing to the team and I always see the good in what others do for the team. What about on the field?
  • Owa:For me, I play relentless. I play hard. From snap to whistle, I like to play with a high motor. That's just something aside from talent and skillset and things that I bring to the table. I'm a guy who's going to fight for four quarters from snap to whistle no matter who's lining up against me, whether you're high school talent or you're the Pro Bowler or whatever. Whoever lines up against me, I'm going to go very hard from snap to whistle for all four quarters and I think that's what makes me who I am as a football player. What was the moment like when you were drafted by the Giants?
  • Owa:Man, I was excited. I know I was very emotional. I was waiting the whole day and just was feeling a lot of -- at first I was feeling disappointment just because I feel like a lot of teams that were saying they were going to pick me didn't call my name or what not -- and then the Giants called me and I was just very, very excited thinking about what they do on defense and their tradition. And that's what made me super excited. I was like, 'Man, I have a real chance to make a name for myself on this team.' And I know the kind of stuff they like to do with their defensive line and you know it will be an honor to even contribute in a little way to that tradition and that's what was going through my mind. So it was very exciting when Tom Coughlin gave me that call, and it was life-changing.



Your favorite superhero?

Favorite Toy?
Ninja Turtle Items

Favorite TV show?
Martin, Fresh Prince or Family Guy

Favorite actor?
Martin Lawrence

Favorite actress?
Queen Latifah

What sport would you play?
Other than football, soccer

What does 'Giants Pride' mean to you?

  • Beckham Jr.:For me, it feels like a sense of one, one-for-all type thing. It's kind of like when I was at LSU, when we walked out of the tunnel, we had a "win" bar at top and everybody had to hit it before we went out. It's your tradition. It's your pride, the pride of your school, your organization. So anytime you get to put on that jersey, the people before you that wore that number, they are going to be watching to see who is wearing their old number and things like that, and it's like you have something to represent now. How does that pride fit into the wide receiver room?
  • Beckham Jr.:It's just something our coach tries to get across our heads every single day, you need to be the best position group on the field each and every day, practice, a game, in meetings, the weight room. Whatever it is, you need to be the best group. It's something that we all buy into, and the relationship we have with all the guys in that room is just incredible. It's a group of guys you can just be around all the time and just go here, go there, go watch the games, chill, whatever it is. We have a good sense of togetherness, and I think that's going to help us a lot during the season. What is your relationship like with Rueben Randle?
  • Beckham Jr.:Rueben, to me, is very humble, and I think it goes unnoticed how hard he works and how determined he really is. When I came into LSU, he was like a brother to me, always looked after me and always made sure that I was doing right, on and off the field. So we have had a special relationship for a long time and he is one of those guys who I haven't seen change a bit since the day we met. He's very down to earth, very humble, he's a quiet worker, he's going to get it in every single time and he's committed and determined to do this for as long as he can and whatever he needs to do to help the team. What will it be like going back to your home state and playing in New Orleans this year?
  • Beckham Jr.:I don't even know if words do it justice. I remember how bad I wanted to get to a state championship in high school and finally made it to the dome in college my first year. It was a horrible experience, and I never had the chance to play in the dome again. As a kid growing up, you were always at the games, you were always there. It's like a dream come true. The game is four days before my birthday and since I can remember, when it's been my birthday or around that birthday time, it seems that I have some of my better games. What is your favorite story from youth football?
  • Beckham Jr.:I don't even know if words do it justice. I remember how bad I wanted to get to a state championship in high school and finally made it to the dome in college my first year. It was a horrible experience, and I never had the chance to play in the dome again. As a kid growing up, you were always at the games, you were always there. It's like a dream come true. The game is four days before my birthday and since I can remember, when it's been my birthday or around that birthday time, it seems that I have some of my better games.



Your favorite superhero?

Favorite movie?

All time TV show?
Looney Tunes

Favorite sport besides football?

All time TV show?
Looney Tunes

Walk-up song?
T.I.'s Bring Them Out

First car?
Mazda 626

What have the first few months with the Giants been like and why did you choose to join the team?

  • Harris:It has been good since the first time I arrived here. Everyone took me in like they have known me for a couple of years. The reason why I chose this place was the great tradition. I came from a big tradition in Dallas, and coming to another organization with the same kind of tradition is definitely good for me because I am used to that and also this team has a chance to win Super Bowls. What makes you a unique talent?
  • Harris:I'm the type of guy who will do anything. I return kicks, I run down on kickoffs, return punts, run down on punts, I'm a great blocking receiver, I'm a guy that when I get the ball I can do a lot of different things. My skillset is probably setting me apart from a lot of different people in the league. How did your love of football develop?
  • Harris:It developed when I was young. I was always competitive. I just love to compete and I feel like the guy in front of me is trying to outwork me. I think my level just goes to another level. I just love to compete, and I am a competitor. What will it be like prepping for the Cowboys, your former team, in the season opener on Sept. 13 in Dallas?
  • Harris:It's going to be a little weird seeing those guys that I played with for four years, but it's going to be exciting, though -- first game in Dallas, at the stadium that I left, and playing against a group of guys that I love like brothers.



What dies 'Giants Pride' mean to you?
I think it exemplifies 53 men coming together for a common goal.

What about pride in your life?
I think it's having a sense of identity, a sense of responsibility and ownership towards an accomplishment that is higher than you.

Where did you learn that from?
I learned about pride through two older brothers who were really mentors in my life.
What does 'Giants Pride' mean to you?

  • Jennings:Before we walk out onto the field, we touch that 'Pride' sign, and I think it exemplifies 53 men coming together for a common goal and leaving it all on the line for the 'NY' on the side of the helmet. What about pride in your life?
  • Jennings:It is an ongoing learning process to really identity what pride is, but I think it's having a sense of identity, a sense of responsibility and ownership towards an accomplishment that is higher than you. Where did you learn that from?
  • Jennings:At an early age I learned about pride through two older brothers who were really mentors in my life. They kind of created the makeup of what 'Giants Pride' looks like, smells like, tastes like and how to demonstrate it. How have you been a mentor to Andre Williams?
  • Jennings:He exemplifies what pride looks like. He's a man that wakes up and has a sense of identity outside the game of football. He's a family man. He takes responsibility. He is the first man in and last man out. He outworks everyone, and he does it in a way to encourage others to follow him.



Your ideal walk-up song.
I think it would be the song that I always listen to before the game: "Know the Ledge" by Rakim. That would be my walk-up song. That song always gets me pumped up before the game.

Your karaoke song.
I would sing "So High" by John Legend.

Favorite superhero.
The Hulk. If he wants to just get out of a situation he's got the power to do it at any time.

Favorite toy as a kid.
I didn't play with a lot of toys. I was a weird little kid. I had this red Power Ranger action figure that I used to like and then those cars where you can like rev them up against the ground and let them go and they would drive by themselves. I liked those too.

Favorite all-time TV show.
I didn't watch too much TV either. I was more like an outdoors kid. I did watch some cartoons. I like Ren and Stimpy.
What does "Giants Pride" mean to you?

  • WILLIAMS: You know you touch the sign and you remember what colors you're wearing, and you know who you're representing on the field and you know not just the Giants and Coach Coughlin, your brothers, but the fans that are out in the stands too.

You've got to stand up tall for all the people that have built something for you to even stand on so you know tapping that sign is something that happens in a split second but it's important. What makes Odell Beckham Jr. so special?

  • WILLIAMS: One of the things about NFL players, everybody has something unique whether it's physically or mentally that makes them the great athlete that they are. And Odell, he's just built differently. He's special because he plays the game with a passion, a fire, you know I get out there on the field and I'm in the huddle with him and he's a different person, because off the field you know he's kind of he likes to clown around he likes to dance, when he gets in the end zone you definitely see it, but when he's in the huddle he's playing angry he wants to go out and make that big play and that determination that he has is part of what makes him so powerful and dangerous. Where did your love of football come from?
  • WILLIAMS: The game of football, it's kind of something that really just grew on me. The more I played the more I fell in love with it. I started playing in sixth grade.

My coach told me, 'Dre, you didn't play football a lot before this but you have a lot of raw talent.' That really stuck with me and made me want to turn that raw talent into something polished. It's taken me to this level, the drive I really have to continue to play the game. What are some strange pre-game rituals you've seen?

  • **

WILLIAMS: **Man, I've seen some strange things. I know people that eat weird things. One of my teammates liked to eat cheese and brown sugar sandwiches.

I don't have any pre-game rituals. The night before the game I make sure I call my mom and my brother and sit down and have a prayer with each of them, go through some meditation.

Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and just meditate for 30 minutes before I go back to bed but other than that it's about it. If you couldn't play football, what sport would you choose?

  • WILLIAMS: Sheesh, football is the sport for me honestly. I guess I might do track and field. I'm not world-class speed. I'm fast but track and field is really the only other sport I liked. I played soccer but I kind of like the physicality of the game of football, that's why I didn't play soccer but I was good at that one too. Maybe karate. I got up to the fifth belt, maybe I'd keep going and get a black belt.



Favorite superhero.
Probably Superman.

Favorite toy as a kid.

Your all-time favorite TV show.
I'd probably say Scandal.

Your favorite actor.
Denzel Washington.

Favorite actress.
Sandra Bullock.

Sport you'd like to play besides football.

Favorite guy to go up against.
[Cowboys wide receiver] Dez Bryant.

Favorite vegetable.

Best thing somebody ever tweeted about you.
That they looked up to me, that I was a role model to them.

The first car you ever owned
A Jeep Commander.
What does "Giants Pride" mean to you?

  • AMUKAMARA: Sometimes I don't even want to leave the locker room just because when you're in that locker room, there's a sort of culture where it's like family, family time.

So much chatter and conversations and love is in that locker room, so it's just great to be a part of that but when we go and touch that 'Pride' sign, it's just 'have pride when you go on the field' and when everyone touches it, it kind of brings us all together. Who is your biggest rival?

  • AMUKAMARA:I would say the Cowboys would probably be our biggest rivalry here. Every time we play them, I don't know why it just seems like everybody just tries to bring their game to a whole new different level and there's always a lot riding on that game.

For example, my first year here, that big play that JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] made to block the field goal earlier in the year and then later in the year we had to win I think about three of four straight just to make it to the playoffs and they were one of those games.

I would say just playing the Cowboys. I just always know it's going to be a very, very tough game. Your favorite youth football story.

  • AMUKAMARA:I was playing Pop Warner when I was 10 and I was new to the team, the team had been together for a while; they had been playing since they were like seven.

I was kind of under-looked but I just wanted to play, so they put me out at wide receiver but never really played me.

And then our punt returner got hurt and they said, 'Prince, as soon as you catch the ball, go down.' In my head, all that's going out the window, I'm thinking I've got to show these guys what I can do, so as soon as I catch the ball, I just run straight to the pylon.

I took it about 60 yards and I scored and all of the coaches, I think they moved me to running back that next week. That was like my big break.

After that, I just started, everyone knew about me and I started getting a lot of reps. **

Why do you love the game of football?**

  • AMUKAMARA:I love this game a lot because I love competing.

That's in any aspect or any game, in life. I just enjoy competing and the journey to become the best at something is one of the things that drives me. Just enjoying that whole process of getting better and climbing the mountain, individually and together as a team. What keeps you going through the grind of an NFL season?

  • AMUKAMARA: Just knowing that everyone else is feeling the exact same way that I'm feeling, that's fatigued mentally and physically, and just knowing that I can't let the guy next to me down. If I let up and that guy is depending on me, he might get hurt or it might cost us a play. Just knowing that we're all in this together, knowing that I have to be the best I can be that day, regardless of how I'm feeling.



Favorite superhero.
Favorite toy as a kid.
Some sort of ball.
Favorite TV show.
Anything current?
I'll go with Modern Family
What does "Giants Pride" mean to you?

  • MANNING: I think when you play for a great organization like the New York Giants you take pride in the history of the organization, all of the great players, all of the great games that have been played in this organization and you take great pride in playing for it and all of the hard work that each player puts in towards the preparation to go out there and play our best each and every Sunday.
    We take pride in the way that we prepare and play and also in the organization that we play for. Which team is your biggest rival?
  • MANNING: I think with the NFC East it's hard to pick one team that you consider a rival. I think all three are rivals. They're all important games.

The NFL has gotten to a point where each game is so important in making the playoffs. One game can make such a difference, so it comes to a point that every team, every game that you play, is a rivalry game. That's the way that you have to treat it. When you get into that NFC East, it's such a storied division with great teams every year, you can't take one team for granted, whether you're playing the Cowboys, always tight games, the Eagles always seem to be close games that come down to the wire, and the same with the Redskins.

You know going in that it's not going to be easy, it's going to be hard, but that win after that game, when you get that win, it makes it so much sweeter because you felt that you earned it. What is your favorite youth football story?

  • MANNING: I started football in fifth grade, we played flag football, so that's what my dad wanted me to play. He didn't want me playing tackle football until eighth grade, so we played flag football and it was shotgun and throwing it every down. It was a lot of fun. I remember just being out there with my buddies, we had hand signals already, we were checking plays. We got pretty sophisticated as 10-year-olds think they can get. It was a lot of fun just being with your buddies, just running around. Those were great moments playing flag football.

I remember our team only had nine guys, seven played at a time, so we never practiced defense before. And so the first game, we practiced offense a lot but we never had any defense, so we were like, 'OK, whatever position you play on offense just flip it and play that on defense.' So I was a middle linebacker, very intimidating. I had a couple interceptions that first game and it was a lot of fun. What is your most embarrassing moment?

  • MANNING: I don't know if I have any embarrassing moments. I think you have some bad plays that occur. I think I've tried to wipe those out of my memory. That's football, you're going to have good plays, you're going to have bad plays. You just have to forget those bad plays and concentrate on the good ones. If you could have a walk-up song like they do in baseball, what would you pick?
  • MANNING: Probably just some country song, something that's pretty relaxed. Maybe something by Kenny Chesney, maybe. **


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