Stansly Maponga is playing a new position for the Giants this season, switching from defensive end to strongside linebacker. But the biggest change for him is not on the field but on his back.
Maponga now has “Maponga Sr.” over his number 95, a change he made this offseason after his son, Stansly Maponga Jr., was born on Dec. 22.
“He’s the junior and I’m the senior now,” Maponga said. “He’s got somebody to look up to so I can’t disappoint him.”
Maponga said those two additional letters on his back are a daily reminder of why he is here grinding in training camp, trying to make the Giants’ roster.
“I have to set a standard and I have to do what I can to be able to help him out,” Maponga said. “That’s somebody who is going to take after me.”
Maponga was a fifth-round pick by the Falcons out of TCU in 2013. He played two seasons there, appearing in 24 games while recording eight tackles and a sack, before going to their practice squad in 2015. The Giants signed him from there in December 2015 when they waived Damontre Moore and needed a defensive end. He appeared in two games at the end of that year. He spent 2016 on the Giants’ practice squad and is now back to make the team.
He played some linebacker under Mike Smith in Atlanta but was mostly a defensive end. Last year on the practice squad, though, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo approached him about a full-time switch.
“Coach Spags came and talked to me and said ‘I really want you at SAM, I really think you can do some big things at SAM,’” Maponga said. “From that point on I just started working at linebacker.”
The biggest difference is in coverage, he said, having to stick with running backs and tight ends on passing plays. But he’s catching on. He’s playing with the second defensive unit behind Devon Kennard.
“It’s a more natural position for me because of my athleticism,” he said. “I know I’m going to make a whole lot of plays standing up rather than having my hand in the ground. I’m able to move all over the field.”
Maponga’s family lives in Dallas, so he has extra incentive to make the opening day roster. The Giants begin their season there against the Cowboys on Sept. 10. For now, though, he’s looking forward to them visiting him this week. They arrive on Wednesday and will be here in New York for the preseason opener on Friday.
“He’s got his own Giants jersey already,” Maponga said of his 8-month-old namesake.
The only difference, of course, is that his says “Maponga Jr.”