Donte Deayon turned around to look at the two footballs with Patriots logos that he’d just swiped. They were sitting in his locker at MetLife Stadium, a pair of mementos from his biggest night as a pro. The third-year cornerback couldn’t hold back his grin looking at them, squeezing them like he was buying produce, then ultimately carrying them home, both under one arm.
“I wish I had a bag,” he said.
It was a good thing the fumble he seemed to force in the second half didn’t count after a replay challenge or he would have had to juggle the three prizes.
But the big question Deayon is now facing isn’t what to do with his footballs or how to carry them. The biggest question is if it was enough to make the 53-man roster. Did his two interceptions in the first half of the 17-12 loss to the Patriots put his mind at ease heading into a Labor Day weekend that, for the past two summers, has been so unkind to him?
“No,” Deayon said, flashing a quick serious face before returning to his near perpetual giddiness.
Who could blame him? Deayon was cut as a rookie late in 2016’s training camp but brought back for the practice squad. Last year he was literally minutes away from making the team when the Giants engineered a trade for Ross Cockrell just before the 4 p.m. cutdown deadline. Deayon was the casualty of that roster spot.
That’s one of the reasons why he refused to exhale or feel comfortable.
“Honestly that’s how I felt last year going into the fourth game,” he said. “I felt like I kind of laxed and it just didn’t sit well with me. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Going into this game I wanted to lock in and give it my all and we’ll see what happens.”
It was a difficult training camp for Deayon, who missed three weeks and the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. Since returning, though, he’s played well.
“Those times I was sitting out were hard but I just knew when I got back I was gonna have to make a push,” he said. “On gamedays I just cut it loose…My mindset every time is to go out there and make plays but really I just wanted to stay engaged and stay locked in the whole game and when the opportunities came make the plays.”
Deayon wasn’t the only one happy he did. The popular player was greeted on the sideline after his first pick, a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab, by nearly the entire bench. Safety Michael Thomas tried to give Deayon the football from the interception, but Deayon kept mindlessly giving it back. Eventually it landed in his locker.
“We love him,” Thomas said. “He’s that type of dude that makes it easy for everybody to root for from fans to teammates. We love to see him go out there and make plays.”
Whether or not they’ll continue to do so with the Giants remains to be seen. There are others competing at cornerback including Chris Lewis-Harris and rookie Curtis Riley, both of whom also made some big plays in the game. That leaves Deayon in the familiar role of waiting to find out his football fate.
“Same routine, same routine,” Deayon said of not changing his cutdown day plans from previous years. “Let it play out and we’ll take it from there.”
He’s certainly got folks on the inside pulling for him.
“To see him take advantage of this opportunity in the fourth preseason game is amazing,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I hope he’s made it tough for somebody to not have him on the team. Regardless of what happens, he’s playing football this year.
“I love his game,” Thomas added. “I hope he’s a New York Giant.”
Notes & quotes: Injured LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) walked out of the locker room without any noticeable limp. “Doing good, doing good,” he said, giving a thumbs up. “Feeling better, feeling better” … Backup quarterback Davis Webb did not play and rookie Kyle Lauletta started. He played into the third quarter, completing 8 of 19 passes for 118 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions … WR Amba Etta-Tawo had a 41-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Giants a 7-3 lead. Alonzo Russell caught a, 8-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Alex Tanney … T Nick Becton (ankle) and RB Robert Martin (ankle) both left the game with injuries.