CANTON, Ohio - There are a lot of things that aren’t up to NFL specs at the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, from the high school stadium with the tiny video board to the small, intimate crowd, to the generally lackluster level of play this early in August.
But for Corey Washington, Sunday night’s game was the biggest stage he has ever played on. And the most important one.
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The rookie wide receiver from Division II Newberry College in South Carolina, where he estimates the largest crowd he ever played in front of was about 4,500, made an impact in his first preseason game with a leaping, acrobatic catch for a 73-yard fourth-quarter touchdown in the Giants’ 17-13 win over the Bills.
"These games are important for small-school guys like myself," said the undrafted rookie receiver from Division II Newberry College in South Carolina. "Preseason games are a chance to show the coaches what I have so I can make the 53-man roster. Hopefully help New York get back on top to the Super Bowl."
Washington used his best asset -- at 6-4, he's the tallest receiver on the Giants' roster -- to make the play. It was a double move and he stutter-stepped past Bills cornerback Michael Carter before leaping and making the grab at about the 25-yard line. Carter fell and Washington cruised into the end zone.
"I can do that, be a deep threat," Washington said. "I can catch the ball, make some moves. You haven't seen that yet. I can move the chains, be a contributor to the team."
The Giants know because they drew up that play just for him.
“On that play it’s a pretty far downfield throw,” said Ryan Nassib, the backup quarterback who threw the pass. “We put Corey out there specifically because he can do stuff like that. He’s proven it in practice that he can make plays like that. It worked out great.”
“He’s done some things that are pretty spectacular that have gotten our attention,” Tom Coughlin said Monday of Washington’s practices in training camp. “It is something that you do sit up and notice when you see it because you are always thinking, can he take the ball off the top of the defender? Certainly Corey has shown that he can.”
Washington said he'd like to make more plays like that. He even referenced taking the place of a Giants receiver who left the team in free agency in the offseason. "I'm trying to replace [Hakeem] Nicks and make all the big plays," he said.
He’ll have to make more in the preseason if he wants to make them in the regular season. He’s off to a good start, but Washington knows that where you start has nothing to do with it.
"That I came from a small school, I'm like the underdog right now, so I have to go out and make plays like that," he said. "It don't matter how small the school was."