Giants offensive lineman Kevin Boothe spent Wednesday afternoon crawling in dirt, running through hula hoops and catching punts. His team’s training camp doesn’t start until Friday, but Boothe, 30, got in some early practice on the campus of Rolling River Day Camp in East Rockaway.
“It was almost tougher than training camp,” Boothe joked. “We were out there doing a lot of different drills, stuff coach would be proud of.”
Catherine Amantea, 8, of Long Beach, said she caught a pass that Boothe threw to her after she “galloped” across the field during one of the drills.
“He’s cool and he’s good at football,” she said.
In between tossing footballs and running through agility ladders, Boothe posed for photos and signed autographs for more than 550 campers and staff. He even let some try on his Super Bowl rings (the Giants won in 2008 and 2012).
Julian Gonzalez, 10, of Franklin Square, asked Boothe to autograph his prosthetic leg. Using silver ink, Boothe signed his name and jersey number on the top part of Julian’s leg, just above a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog.
“The leg you can save a lot longer than a shirt,” said Julian, adding that he has kept all the prosthetic limbs he’s had since he was born without a foot.
“This is one of the best days ever,” he said. “He’s one of the most coolest guys I’ve ever met in my life.”
Boothe’s visit also drew “Sopranos” star Joe Gannascoli to Rolling River Wednesday. Gannascoli’s daughter, Viviana, 4, is a camper there, but the die-hard Giants fan, who played “Vito Spatafore” in the HBO series, was there to see Boothe.
“I’m more excited to meet Giants than actors,” said Gannascoli, 54, of East Rockaway.
Alec Schare, 10, of Long Beach, interviewed Boothe for the camp’s newsletter. He asked Boothe how important is it that the Giants win Super Bowl XLVIII, which will take place on the Giants’ home turf at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“It’s very important, because it’s never been done before,” Boothe said. “No team has ever won in their own stadium, and it’s already been a couple of years since my last one, so we need another one.”
Then, Boothe joked that he would bring the team back to Rolling River to party after they win the big game.
“I was unbelievably impressed with Kevin,” said Rolling River’s associate director, Marissa Allaben, adding that Boothe did not charge a cent for his appearance.
Allaben recalled watching Boothe play football for Cornell University in upstate Ithaca, which she graduated from in 2006, one year after Boothe did. Seeing her family’s camp and many campers’ homes battered by superstorm Sandy, Allaben said she’s been trying to make this camp season extra special. She reached out to Boothe earlier this year, but had to wait for him to be re-signed with the Giants before they could schedule a visit.
Allaben said the camp is creating a “CampMates” scholarship in Boothe’s name, which will allow Rolling River to host another child from the Peninsula Counseling Center in nearby Valley Stream.
Boothe, a father of two, said his visit to the camp brought him back to his own childhood. While interacting with the campers, he said one child asked him if he was 108 years old, another wanted to know if he was a real giant. He also worked on trying to convert some Jets fans.
“They had a blast,” he added, “and so did I.”