Jake Carlock transferred to LIU Post in the middle of his college football journey because he thought it would help his future career. Little did he know it would lead to a possible alternate professional pursuit.
After three years at Stony Brook, including two seasons fighting through wrist injuries, Carlock, an All-Long Island player from Babylon, decided that the school was not right for him academically. He had difficulty finding a major, and once he decided he wanted to pursue education and coaching when his playing days came to an end, he realized he probably needed to switch colleges. There were plenty of options for him, and one that stuck out was Post.
It was a great fit, but it meant dropping from Division I FCS to Division II. Carlock knew that likely meant waving goodbye to his already slim dreams of playing in the NFL; Post has produced a handful of pro players over the years, but nobody goes there thinking it’s a pathway to the next level. Stony Brook, or another FCS program, would give him much better exposure to NFL scouts.
“I wasn’t sure what was next,” Carlock said of his football path.
He spent two years playing for the Pioneers (he led the team in tackles each season and was named Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2018) and was just about ready to embark on that teaching career. Then, on April 27, his phone rang.
It was the Giants. He’d attended their local pro day earlier in the spring and they were so impressed that they wanted to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
It didn’t take long for the lifelong fan of the Giants to say yes to the opportunity.
“It’s been awesome,” he told Newsday at rookie minicamp on Saturday, in between practices, walk-throughs, and meetings. “It’s been a lot of work but I’m also enjoying the moment and taking full advantage of this opportunity.”
Carlock is listed as a defensive back on the team’s roster, but he’s been playing linebacker this weekend. That’s somewhat of a different role than he played at Post, where he played a position in the Pioneer defense called a rover.
“I was doing more covering slots and wide receivers, playing more off the line of scrimmage,” he said. “Here I have my hand in the dirt and it’s a little different experience for me but I’m enjoying it. It’s definitely tougher to learn a new position and a new playbook at the same time, but it’s an awesome position that I think I’ll do very well at.”
Given the need for linebackers who can cover in space, Carlock’s size (6-3, 225) and athleticism intrigue the Giants. His ability to be a long-snapper is also an asset.
“We’re always looking for guys at skill positions,” Pat Shurmur said of Carlock. “He’s a very accomplished linebacker. He’s going to compete in a couple of different areas.”
Carlock said he has had to put his “fandom” away for a while. The kid who grew up rooting for Big Blue probably would not be able to function if he allowed himself to really inspect his surroundings, so he’s shut off that part of his brain. He does get to enjoy it through the eyes of his friends and family, though.
“Everyone’s excited,” he said. “Honestly, they’re in awe. I get a text just about every minute asking how I’m doing and how it’s going. Sometimes they’re blowing my phone up.”
He got back to his hotel room on Friday night after his first practice and saw too many messages of support to count. He tried to get back to as many as he could before burying himself again in the playbook.
This is a dream, he knows, that can be taken away at any moment. Right now he’s got his name on the back of a Giants practice jersey, but he’s one slip-up away from going back on the path toward Coach Carlock.
“I know what can happen,” he said. “I’m still fighting for a spot, everyone here is. Just because I signed doesn’t mean I’m on the team.”
This weekend is the first step in a journey that Carlock hopes takes him through the summer, through training camp, and possibly to the Giants’ 53-man roster or practice squad. That idea, like his fandom, can be overwhelming. So he’s shut that off, too.
“Right now I’m just living in the moment,” he said.
A moment he thought he’d have to give up on two years ago, but which has arrived all the same.