Cody Latimer keeps catching footballs.
“Got to make a statement,” he said.
The Giants are counting on that. Especially if they go into the regular season with Golden Tate suspended (he’s currently appealing a four-game ban for violating the policy on performance-enhancing drugs) and Sterling Shepard at less than 100 percent (he’s been practicing with a splint on a fractured thumb). Latimer might turn out to be their best option in the passing game in the early going.
But the veteran wide receiver also is dealing with plenty off the field.
In the spring, he returned to his hometown of Dayton in the immediate aftermath of a series of tornadoes that destroyed some neighborhoods close to where he grew up. Then, earlier this month, Dayton was in the headlines again, this time for a mass shooting that left 10 people dead and 27 injured. Latimer wasn’t able to fly to Ohio then as the Giants were preparing for their preseason opener, but the trauma experienced by his hometown hurt him deeply.
“It’s crazy, but it’s just the world we live in nowadays,” Latimer told Newsday. “It’s happening everywhere. El Paso. It’s sad to see that stuff. It’s starting to become a common thing now, and it’s crazy. My heart is out for Dayton. I feel for them. For the people who made it out safe but also for the people who didn’t make it and their families. It’s an unfortunate thing that’s happening everywhere. It sucks, but this is the world we live in. It’s heartbreaking.”
Then, last Thursday — the day of the preseason game against the Jets — Latimer’s mother, Tonya Dunson, flew to New Jersey to watch the game. When she arrived at Newark Airport, however, Latimer said she had a seizure and had to be rushed to the hospital. She’s been at Newark Beth Israel ever since and is scheduled to have surgery to repair two holes in her heart on Wednesday, he said.
“I got a lot of stuff going on,” Latimer said. “But that’s life, man.”
Latimer is optimistic his mother will make it through her surgery.
“She’s been sick but she’s a fighter,” he said. “She’s strong.”
She’d been having seizures recently, he said, but doctors back home in Dayton were unable to figure out why. Tests at Beth Israel revealed the holes in her heart. They believe mending them will help end the seizures.
“This should fix her episodes now,” he said. “They’ll plug the two holes in her heart. So it was a blessing in disguise . . . It’s been the best thing that could have happened.”
So was the decision by Latimer’s wife, Jaimee, to eschew ordering a car service for Dunson and driving to the airport to pick her up. Had Jaimee not been there, there’s no telling what might have happened when Dunson walked off the plane, said she was not feeling well and collapsed.
It was only a few hours later that Latimer caught the first career pass from Daniel Jones. A few snaps later, he caught a 31-yarder. On Sunday, at Giants practice, he hauled in a deep pass from Eli Manning. He’s coming off a disappointing first season with the Giants, in which he spent most of 2018 sidelined by a hamstring injury, and is having a strong training camp in spite of the swirls around him.
“Cody is probably one of our most veteran receivers,” Pat Shurmur said. “I think he shows that out there. He knows how to practice. He knows how to compete. He has a unique ability to make a play down the field. I think he does a good job.”
Latimer spent time this past weekend, while the Giants were off from practices, visiting with his mother. Now that they are back to work, he heads over to the hospital after the workouts and meetings to be with her.
The recent events — the shooting and his mother’s pending surgery, plus the storms in the spring — only have reinforced for Latimer how precious life is. It’s also put football into perspective. He has a job to do. He has passes to catch. But he also has priorities.
Like he said: Got to make a statement.
“You have to say ‘I love you’ to your loved ones every day,” he said. “I tell my wife and son that I love them every day. Because you never know.”