Hakeem Nicks worked out for a number of teams this season, each of them a prospective employer. But there was one place he really wanted to sign.
"I felt like this is where I wanted to be in my heart," the recently recycled Giants receiver said this week. "Business is business and it's going to play out the way it's going to play out, and fortunately I was blessed enough to be back in this position."
It's a terrific narrative, especially at this time of the year. The wayward first-round pick makes it home for the holidays. He returns to the nest. He wears his old number 88 jersey and even sleeps in his old bed, noting that he never sold his home in the area just in case this scenario ever played itself out.
It also seldom works.
Oh, the Giants have tried. A lot. More than most teams. To paraphrase a familiar phrase around the franchise: Once a Giant, always a potential Giant again.
In the last few years, they have given a handful of former players opportunities to come back and help the team after they bolted elsewhere only to find the contracts were often greener than the grass. Brandon Jacobs, Aaron Ross, Mario Manningham, they've all come back for a Giants encore only to find they had no more tunes to sing.
There is one, however, whose sequel lived up to - and actually exceeded - the original.
"Man, it was exhilarating," said linebacker Chase Blackburn, recalling the moment in 2011 when the Giants called to bring him back. "It was awesome."
Blackburn, who at that time was out of football and about to enter a career as a math teacher, became the Giants' starting linebacker in December of that year. He helped solidify the defense for a championship run and even made a key play - an interception on a deep pass intended for Rob Gronkowski - to help the team win Super Bowl XLVI.
The key to his success, he told Newsday in a phone interview on Tuesday, was not having any expectations - high or low. He was just happy to be on the team.
"It was awesome to go back and play the game that you love and that you missed," he said. "I figured out in the first few weeks what my role was going to be and how we were going to play and be placed, what position, and I bought into that. Once I was there, it was no big deal."
No one knows what Nicks will be able to provide on the field, but Blackburn said he thinks Nicks can have success similar to what he found when he was a late-season addition.
"It was great for me to get back there and I'm sure Hakeem feels the same way getting another opportunity," Blackburn said. "He's going to play and do his role. Those are the guys the Giants bring back as much as anything, the guys who understand that their role is important and will do anything to help the team. I think Hakeem is the same way."
Tom Coughlin stressed that Nicks isn't back with the Giants because of his history with the team.
"I'll be point blank with you, Hakeem was the best player out there for right now, for the circumstances," Coughlin said. "Matter of fact, he was someone who we figured was in the sights of other clubs."
Being a Giant in a past life didn't hurt, though.
"We know the player, we know the young man," Coughlin said, "and, quite frankly, he was, in our opinion, the best player out there."
And now he's back. Thrilled to be so, as they all are on their re-engagement.
"Obviously they are a class organization from top to bottom," Blackburn said. "It makes you want to come back. The ability to win, it makes you feel like you are always in the game, you always feel like you have a chance to win the division. Those are all things as a player you look for. You want to give yourself a chance to get in the playoffs. Also you want to win the ring. Anytime you have a competitive team, it makes players want to be there."
The Giants are 5-5 and in first place in the NFC East. Nicks could be a piece that helps push them past mediocrity, like Blackburn 2.0 was. Or he could be a non-factor the way Ross and Manningham and Jacobs turned out to be; good stories for a few days until they got on the field.
Blackburn will be watching and rooting for the former. In between his own training, anyway.
"I'm working out every day, ready for any call that happens," the once again out-of-work linebacker said. "Trying to get a repeat of the last time. Hopefully I can get a call back."