Corey Webster has crossed the line from protégé to mentor and is enjoying his new role.
When Webster was a young cornerback for the Giants, he was tutored and counseled by the likes of Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters, who taught him the nuances of playing his position and encouraged him in the tough times, most notably when a healthy Webster was inactive.
Now entering his eighth season, Webster has at least two years on each of the other 10 cornerbacks on the Giants' roster. It is Webster who dispenses advice, support and constructive criticism to youngsters and young veterans.
"I'm the elder of the group these days," Webster said during a training camp break at the University at Albany. "A lot of those guys are coming to me for different questions, on the field and off the field. So I'm just trying to help them with this transition. And hopefully, I can help them with all the information that somebody has passed to me. Whether it was Sam Madison or R.W. McQuarters, I can do the same for them and make their transition easy, just like mine was."
Webster's role as the leader of the cornerbacks has become more vital with the latest injury suffered by fellow starter Terrell Thomas. One year after tearing his right ACL, Thomas last week injured the same ligament, though the severity of his latest issue is not yet known. In 2011, Aaron Ross, who is Webster's close friend, stepped in for Thomas. Ross signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason, so Prince Amukamara and Michael Coe have taken snaps with the first team. Veterans like Antwaun Molden, Justin Tryon, Bruce Johnson and Dante Hughes, plus rookie Jayron Hosley, would also like a shot to win the starting job on the right side while Thomas is sidelined. Webster is secure on the left side, but he's monitoring who's lining up opposite him.
"I'm always trying to critique and make us all better," Webster said. "So it doesn't matter who's out there. We hate to see anybody go down but we always preach that everybody has to prepare like they're a starter. It's unfortunate that a guy has to go down, but someone has to step up and play the role and make sure we take no losses or setbacks there. With that said, it's always a bittersweet moment. We have to get somebody to step up to make the team better.
"Hopefully God's with us and everybody stays blessed and everybody can be healthy. That's why you need that depth. Everybody has to prepare like they're starters. So we can go out there any given play. Anybody can be down and have to step up so that's why you need that."
Webster thinks the current cast of corners is as deep as any he's played with. It's deep enough to play at a high level should Thomas be forced off the field for a significant period of time.
"I just want to fill in any void that I can help," he said. "If somebody doesn't understand something and if I can tell them in my terms and make them understand it, I'm gonna do that. If somebody is down, whether if it's a play or a bad game, I want to be able to go there and lift them up and tell them that we're gonna need them and hopefully use that to get better. Use whatever happened to you to get you to that point, to get better and make it a positive. So I will do that as far as anybody on the team needs it, I'll do that for them."
Webster said the journey from eager rookie to wizened veteran passed rapidly, but he enjoyed the ride and is equally comfortable in both roles.
"It happened very quickly," Webster said. "But I just embraced it. I didn't think it was overwhelming or anything. Whatever I went through only makes me stronger. And if I can pass it along to them, they don't have to go through some of the same things I went through. I can make their transition smoother then. And ultimately it makes us a better team and a better defense.
"Even in college, I always was one of the leaders on the team. Those guys took me in and showed me how to do it on this level. They were here for a great couple of years. But I acted as a sponge and tried to soak up all the information that those guys gave to me. I think it's been working fine for me to pass along to the younger guys."
Webster doesn't limit his teaching to the cornerbacks. He's paid particular attention to wide receiver Rueben Randle, the Giants' second-round draft choice this year. It's no coincidence that Webster and Randle played football at the same college.
"I get on anybody," Webster said. "Rueben Randall is coming from LSU. My eyes are going to be on him a little bit more than they are on everybody else. Just because he's representing our alma matter, he's representing the New York Giants and I want to see him succeed."
As he's reaching out to teammates who want his help and offering it to those who didn't ask for it, Webster is mindful of improving his own play. Last year, he started every game for only the second time in his career and led the team with six interceptions, the highest total by a Giant since 2000.
"I never feel secure or content at all – never," he said. "I'm always striving to try to get better. Always feel like we can get better at something, whether it's in the run game or the pass game, conditioning or whether it's eating-wise. I'm always trying to get better."
He's done well striving for that goal not only for himself, but in helping his teammates.