It started out as a joke. The basketball coach and football coach at UTEP were on a radio show yukking it up about how often Cedrick Lang, the forward for the hoops team, fouled out of the games. Maybe, they said, he should play football.
Hardy har har.
“But,” Lang said, “someone took it seriously.”
How’s this for a punchline: Lang is now a member of the Giants as their newest tight end. He signed a contract as an undrafted rookie free agent and is participating in this weekend’s rookie minicamp.
After four years of playing college basketball and with a chance to play professionally in Europe, Lang decided to spend a fifth year at the school and join the football team. He hadn’t played the sport since 9th grade, but his physical attributes were too enticing to pass up.
“I chose the opportunity to play football,” he said, “and it paid off.”
The Giants hope it does for them, too. They’ve had success with some basketball players-turned-tight end in the past, from Kevin Boss to Martellus Bennett to Jake Ballard. All of them were hoop stars at some point in their athletic careers. Around the league, too, the position is filled with former hardwood heroes like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, who have been able to turn rebounding and jumpers into first downs and TDs.
“This is an opportunity,” Lang said. “People were always kind of interested in my size and that I could move. Basketball players, there have been a couple in the league who have done it so it’s always kind of been there.”
Lang’s college football career started last summer when he would have three-hour sessions with his position coach going over the very basics of the sport and the position. By the time fall practices began he had bit of a sense about his new sport. His playing time increased. He caught one touchdown last season, the game-winner against rival New Mexico State.
Not a lot of teams were interested, though. The Giants traveled to El Paso for his pro day and gave him a one-hour private workout. Then, after the draft last weekend, they signed him as a free agent.
Lang still looks green. There were several times in the practice on Friday when he lined up incorrectly and had to be directed elsewhere. But he caught all of the balls thrown to him.
“These guys have been playing their whole life, I’ve been playing one year,” he said of his new teammates. “The biggest thing is I have to ask a lot of questions because I don’t know what’s going on sometimes. So I just ask.
“They throw a lot at you, but it’s been a very positive day,” he added after the workout. “You’d be amazed by how much you can learn in one day on the football field.”
Imagine what day two will bring.