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Turning the tide of the Giants’ recent irrelevance just might start with Kayvon Thibodeaux’s charismatic influence.

There was a buzz to the Giants’ No. 5 overall pick hitting Friday’s practice field in his new No. 5 jersey on the first day of rookie minicamp.

Thibodeaux, a kid from Los Angeles, said that hearing The Notorious B.

I.G.’s “Juicy” on the loudspeakers nearly brought him to tears.

“I almost cried because I was like, ‘Man, we’re really here,” Thibodeaux said, beaming.

He was thrilled to be back on a field because he really hasn’t been a part of a team in six months. But it was also important to Thibodeaux that it was this field, with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

“I savor every moment, man,” Thibodeaux said, opening his arms wide to his surroundings outside the Giants’ facility in East Rutherford. “It’s like dude, [there’s] MetLife [Stadium], the American Dream, the New York Giants. Are you serious?”

What about the Empire State Building off in the distance?

“I can’t even see it because there’s all this greatness right here,” Thibodeaux said, not missing a beat. “So for me, it’s a dream come true.”

This is important because the Giants are a landmark franchise that has lost its way and received only one prime time game on their 2022 schedule from the NFL. But Thibodeaux might have the magnetic makeup to turn them into a desirable destination and feature attraction again.

Former Giant Chris Canty, the Super Bowl XLVI champion and current national ESPN radio host, told the Daily News that he believes Thibodeaux is the kind of player and person that teammates will follow.

“He’s a special talent, but beyond that, I think he’s got the type of personality that if he produces on the field, players in the locker room are going to gravitate toward him,” Canty said last week at the United Way of New York City’s 29th annual Gridiron Gala. “He’s gonna be a leader early on in his career, and the Giants have been lacking in that department for a really long time.”

Playing in New York obviously comes with challenges, temptations and opportunities for a star with the world at his fingertips like Thibodeaux. Giants running back Saquon Barkley, though, said that managing a brand in the Big Apple is best accomplished by keeping football the priority and letting the rest fall into place.

“Be you,” Barkley said he would advise Thibodeaux. “Be you. It’s all about coming in ready to work and having the right mindset. There’s gonna be a lot of things across the water that you can get your hands on and benefit off of, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing. And the stuff I’ve heard about him and his work ethic, he’s a great worker. He loves football. So he don’t gotta worry about that.”

Former Steeler O-lineman Max Starks, a two-time Super Bowl winner and current NFL analyst, called Thibodeaux’s final college game, a Pac-12 championship loss to Utah. He confirmed Thibodeaux’s work ethic is there, and the proof is in what he’s accomplished.

“Kayvon Thibodeaux, he’s always been the best at every level he’s competed at,” Starks said at Willie Colon’s charity golf event in Summit, N.J. “He’s been the best high school player in the country. He’s been the best defensive player in the country at the collegiate level. So that doesn’t go away. And that motivation won’t go away because now he has to prove he’s the best at the top level.”

To the dismay of Thibodeaux’s NFL Draft detractors, he eagerly accepted detailed coaching from outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins on Friday, paired up with former Texas outside backer Ray Thornton in position drills. Then he tried to take what he learned and apply it on the left edge in coordinator Don Martindale’s scheme.

He was humble. He knows he hasn’t ‘arrived’ yet just because he’s wearing an NFL uniform.

“Ya know, I put it on but I feel like I’m not there yet,” He said. “I feel like there’s still some hoops and hurdles and prelims I gotta go through.”

But Thibodeaux also welcomed the idea that a rookie can be a leader by setting an example.

“It’s about doing the right thing at all times,” he said. “So for me, as long as I’m leading myself down the right path, people are gonna follow. As long as I’m going the right way, it’s gonna be easy to have people go with me. I’m not saying that I’m gonna step in and be a vocal leader, but I’m gonna make sure I do everything the right way so that when people see me, they know I’m the last one leaving, they know I’m the first one in, and that’s just how I do things.”

Canty, who knows what a great locker room looks like, said Thibodeaux’s authenticity sticks out to him the most and bodes well for how he’ll fare in New York.

“He’s not afraid to be his authentic self,” Canty said. “He’s shown that on various platforms, in college football, during the media tours in the pre-draft process. And authenticity is the ultimate currency, especially with today’s athlete. He’s gonna go in that locker room, he’s gonna be himself, and guys are gonna love him for it.”

As an example, Thibodeaux told the Giants in his NFL Combine interview in March that he nearly quit football in eighth grade. On Friday, he explained that even at that young age, he saw the pressure to perform that came with being the best.

“It wasn’t like I was on the field and like I quit,” Thibodeaux said Friday. “It was a conversation I had with my mom talking about [how] I wanted to take a year off of football and go play basketball. It was just an idea for me, because being a kid, you see all these statistics and you see all you guys creating narratives and creating frames on how hard it is to make it to the NFL. So for me, I had doubt in my mind.”

But Thibodeaux eventually ran toward that pressure, not away from it.

“I had to dial back to my faith and realize that you know, there’s gonna be statistics with everything, right? It’s up to you to create your own legacy,” he said.

His legacy now will define the Giants’ legacy. Whether or not he’s able to help turn this franchise around, it will be worth watching him to find out.

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News Source: mercurynews.com

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Jack Grealish relishing prospect of winning Premier League in first season with Man City against old club Aston Villa

MANCHESTER CITY star Jack Grealish can't wait to face old club Aston Villa in what could be the Premier League title decider in the season finale.

Grealish joined City from Villa in a blockbuster £100million transfer last summer.

1Man City ace Jack Grealish can't wait to face old club Villa in what could be the Prem title deciderCredit: MatchDay Images Limited

And the England international is on course to lift his first title with league leaders City since leaving Villa Park.

But City's 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday which Grealish scored in, means the title race with Liverpool could go right down to the wire.

Just a point will separate Liverpool and City if the Reds dispose of Southampton on Tuesday night.

That would leave City needing victory against Villa to secure their second consecutive title, and Grealish can't wait to nick three points off his old side.

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He enthused on Sky Sports, via Birmingham Mail after the Cityzens stalemate with the Hammers: "I can't wait. It's gonna be a great day. It just had to be against Aston Villa, didn’t it? Couldn't have been any other game!

"But that doesn't matter at all, it’s not about me, it's not about who we're playing against.

"It's about the team and it's about the club and we're gonna go out there and try and win and get all three points It's gonna be different for me, I've never had that before.

"I've never had a game on the last day to win a title, so I'm looking forward to it and I can't wait."

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But Grealish won't be the only one fired up for the clash.

Villa boss Steven Gerrard along with new recruit Philippe Coutinho will both be hoping to do old club Liverpool a favour by beating City.

The pair failed to win the league during their time playing together at Anfield.

And Gerrard will get the chance to make up for his slip against Chelsea that cost the Reds the title in 2014 with a win over City to help the Merseyside giants.

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