Ryan Connelly began calling the Giants’ defensive signals and helping to get everyone organized late in the first half of his second NFL start Sunday in Tampa, then recorded his first interception in the second half. The inside linebacker’s cousin from the NHL watched on TV and enjoyed the show.
“I tune in when I can, obviously, and watch him play,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said Thursday. “Big pickoff there he had . . . I’m extremely proud of Ryan, just the way he’s stepped in as a young guy and playing a position where it takes a lot of leadership and hard work. You really can see how well he reads those plays.”
The family tree now has branches in two sports here. Lee has represented himself well over the years. Connelly is just starting out. He already has been fed much responsibility, but the 2019 fifth-round pick hasn’t been fazed and is making a good first impression.
“It’s definitely a big responsibility that I’m taking seriously,” Connelly said Friday.
The Giants moved the 6-2, 236-pound Wisconsin graduate into the starting lineup after the opener. Connelly made seven tackles against the Bucs and helped the Giants improve to 1-2. After Alec Ogletree went down with a strained hamstring, Connelly had to slide over to Ogletree’s spot and wear the helmet with the transmitter to receive and call the signals.
Ogletree will miss Sunday’s game against the Redskins at MetLife Stadium, so Connelly will keep that responsibility.
“He’s got great instincts,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s very smart. He works extremely hard. And he just has a feel for playing the position. I think that helped him in the game.”
Connelly was a quarterback at Eden Prairie High School in his native Minnesota and led them to a state title as a senior before walking on at Wisconsin.
“I walked on as an athlete,” Connelly said. “The first day there, I kind of texted the coach and said, ‘Where am I going to go for meetings tomorrow?’ He said, ‘Just go to the linebacker room.’ ”
It was fine with Connelly. He had a Fathead of Bears great Brian Urlacher on his wall growing up.
Connelly earned a scholarship after redshirting as a freshman and became a full-time starter last season. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.
And now he’s here, which gives him a better chance to follow Lee and the Islanders.
“I’m pretty close [with Lee],'' Connelly said. “We text after games. I try to watch as much as I can. Obviously, not a ton of time right now, but I’m excited to be able to get to some games this year.”
Notes & quotes: Besides Ogletree, linebacker Tae Davis (concussion) and running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) are out . . . Defensive lineman Olsen Pierre (knee) practiced after sitting out two days . . . Wide receiver Cody Latimer was cleared after going through the concussion protocol.