Monday, June 18, 2012

Clothes? Giants' Muasau just wants a uniform Originally published: June 16, 2012 1:55 AM

One of the first phone calls Jake Muasau made was to his older brother, Louie. He wanted to share the good news: After a tryout during the rookie minicamp in May, he'd just been invited to sign a free-agent contract with the Giants. But he had other more pressing issues, too.

He needed his brother to send him some clothes. Muasau would be sticking around New Jersey and he'd brought only two outfits with him for the tryout.

Muasau's wardrobe now is the least of his worries. He's still a long shot to make the Giants' 53-man roster at the end of training camp, and even a spot on the eight-man practice squad seems out of reach from the bottom of the depth chart. He's essentially the 90th man on a 90-man team, and the last one in is often the first to go.

But the Giants' coaches have been raving about him since he arrived . . . even if they haven't always known who he is.

When Perry Fewell first saw Muasau in the Giants' complex, he was disappointed. He spotted the long, flowing Samoan hair from behind and thought veteran Kawika Mitchell had come back to the team. Fewell had to hide his disappointment when Muasau turned around and started beaming about how excited he was to be here.

Fewell said earlier this spring that he still hadn't quite figured out how to pronounce Muasau's last name -- he just calls him Jake -- but he's no longer disappointed. In fact, he's practically thrilled.

"We saw something in him at the rookie minicamp and we said, 'Let's give this guy a shot,' " Fewell said. "He's really professional about how he went about his work and his business. We think if we give him the opportunity to get reps at the position he's playing right now, we might find something. Obviously, preseason games will tell, but we like what we've seen in the rookie minicamp and we like what we've seen in these three OTAs."

Linebackers coach Jim Herrmann went even further, saying Muasau will "have a legitimate chance to make the team." Not bad, considering the depth the Giants have at linebacker.

Muasau can play outside linebacker, as he did at Georgia State, but Fewell said he "looks more like a natural Mike than some of the guys we have."

"Middle linebacker, you're the quarterback of the defense," Muasau said. "You can't sit in no-man's land because then the rest of the defense is sitting the same way. It definitely gives me an opportunity to really lead the defense and try to get everybody on one page."

At Georgia State, Muasau was an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, essentially a stand-up defensive end. His size is not imposing -- he's listed at 6-1, 243 pounds -- but he has good speed and athleticism.

"I'll be very interested in seeing how he performs when we get to training camp and we get to preseason," Fewell said.

Muasau's path to the NFL -- even the fringes of the league, where he currently resides -- has been arduous. He grew up in difficult circumstances in Arizona, sometimes homeless, and could not afford to play organized football until he got to high school. It was there that he flourished as a wide receiver and defensive back, and he even made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Nebraska.

Low SAT scores and an off-field incident involving the selling of prescription pills forced the Cornhuskers to rescind their scholarship offer, so Muasau went to junior college at Phoenix College, where his brother Louie was playing.

They were together for two years at Phoenix, then went to Georgia State together as part of the fledgling program's first recruiting class.

"We tried to see if we could stay together and transfer out to a university," Muasau said. "Georgia State just happened to be the only school that would take us both. They offered us both and we decided to go to Georgia State. Being a new program, we wanted to help set the foundation at Georgia State."

After two years, Jake is on the cusp of the NFL. Louie is finishing his degree and plans on being a graduate assistant at Georgia State this fall. Both had dreams of playing in the NFL, but because of Louie's knee injuries, only Jake has made it this far.

"I guess I'm just holding it down for the both of us," he said.

He won't be playing next to his brother for the first time since his senior year in high school, but Muasau does know a familiar face on the Giants' roster. He and last year's first-round pick, Prince Amukamara, competed against each other as school kids in Arizona and nearly were teammates at Nebraska.

"It's crazy how growing up together, we could have wound up at the same university," Muasau said, "but we just had different paths, and now you look at us four or five years later, we're in the same locker room. It's a true blessing, especially with a guy who I used to share these type of dreams with . . . It's amazing to sit back and talk about your childhood with someone who was there as well."

Amukamara said he remembers lining up against Muasau when they were in different tournaments and workouts for elite players. Back then, Muasau was a wide receiver and Amukamara would cover him. They kept in touch a little bit through college but hadn't seen each other until Muasau showed up with the Giants a few weeks ago.

"I guess he filled in," Amukamara said of the difference in size between high school receiver and NFL linebacker. "Those Samoans always get big like that."

Amukamara chortled when asked if he still could cover Muasau, a kind of what-do-you-think? confidence. Muasau laughed at the thought, too. But he doesn't have to worry about it.

Said Muasau, "I'm on the same side of the ball as him now."

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