Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On Nov. 8, 2014, Will Tye started for the Stony Brook Seawolves in their home game against James Madison. He caught a game-high seven passes for 90 yards, including an 11-yarder for the game's first touchdown. Tye's efforts could not prevent Stony Brook from falling to the Dukes, 27-24. A crowd of 5,115 fans watched the game.
On Nov. 8, 2015, Tye will again play in a football game, one that is more significant and will draw far more attention. With Larry Donnell sidelined with a neck injury, the rookie free agent will be the Giants' No. 1 tight end when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.
"I think he continues to get better," coach Tom Coughlin said today. "He's done a nice job when called upon as a young player. He obviously can handle it, so he's going to have extended time."
Could Tye have imagined that he'd play for a Football Championship Subdivision school one season, and for the NFL's flagship franchise the next?
"No, you can't, but you can just definitely work toward that, because that was definitely a goal," he said this week. "No matter where it was, the Giants or any other team, to be on a roster playing at this moment in time, definitely."
The Giants have signed undrafted free agent, Stony Brook TE Will Tye
Stony Brook is located on Long Island, about 65 miles from the Giants' offices here. But Tye's journey from the Seawolves to the Giants' lineup was anything but an easy trip. After starring at Salisbury High School in Connecticut, Tye enrolled at Florida State. But after playing in just eight games and catching one pass in two seasons, he transferred to Stony Brook.
Tye was the Seawolves' starting tight end for two years. He caught 75 passes and scored nine touchdowns. Tye was convinced he had earned an opportunity to showcase his skills in an NFL camp.
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"I knew I'd get a shot," he said. "When I got there, I had to basically do everything I could to be noticed every day, no matter if it was catching everything, making every block, or not messing up on any play.
Tye attended the Giants' post-draft rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. He was one of four players signed by the team after the camp, on May 11 – and is the only one still here.
When training camp opened in July, the Giants had five tight ends. And no one disputed that Tye was ranked fifth. After being in a similar situation at Florida State, Tye knew what he had to do to stand out.
"Everything that they weren't doing," he said. "Whether it was extra time meeting with (tight ends) coach (Kevin M. Gilbride) or film. Just trying to learn everything fast, so I can go out there and perform when I got the chance to."
In the preseason, Tye did not catch a pass in three games, and was released prior to the finale at New England. But the Giants signed him to their practice squad on Sept. 7. When Daniel Fells was sidelined with a MRSA staph infection (which subsequently forced him to go on injured reserve), Tye was signed to active roster on Oct. 3. The following day, he made his NFL debut in Buffalo, where he dropped the only pass thrown to him.
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"I stopped and said, 'Where am I? This is not real.'" Tye said. "Even now, I believe sometimes, but I don't believe I'm going to work or I'm going to play this game I love. I don't believe it still sometimes."
It became more real the following week, when the Giants needed to clear a roster spot and waived another tight end, Jerome Cunningham, instead of Tye. In the next game, a victory over San Francisco, Tye caught four passes for 22 yards. His first NFL reception was a 12-yarder and gave the Giants a first down on their initial touchdown drive. Tye also had two catches in Philadelphia, and two last week in New Orleans.
"I think Will has played well," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He's played well for us these past few weeks, getting more comfortable with the offense. I think he's got some ability, catches the ball well, he's made some nice plays for us so far in the past month or so, and so I think he's ready for it (more playing time). I think he should be able and play well."
Because of Donnell's injury, Cunningham was re-signed to the roster this week. Cunningham is from Southern Connecticut State, so the Giants' two tight ends at Tampa Bay will be first-year players from small football schools.
Coughlin said that inexperience will not force the Giants to pare down their game plan.
"They've had a solid week of coaching and preparation," Coughlin said. "It all depends on the opposition. It's not going to be them. Anything you see which is done structurally different will be done because of what we feel is appropriate for the Tampa Bay defense."
Tye is confident he can execute any assignment the Giants give him.
"Even after dropping the one in Buffalo, I wasn't too worried about it because I knew the next week I was going to improve on catching everything," Tye said. "Now being out there, I know I can play now. It feels good, I'm getting a lot more comfortable with the plays every week, the different game plans."
And what about having a larger role with Donnell sidelined?
"I'm ready for it," Tye said. "I'm beyond ready for it."