James O’Hagan walked off the field Thursday night in New England knowing that it was likely his final opportunity to wear a Giants jersey.
And he was at peace with that.
“Especially after tonight, I can go to bed knowing I did my best and whatever happens happens,” the rookie center from Seaford told Newsday after playing all but nine of the offensive snaps in the game. “I feel like I put my best foot forward and had the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s been exciting to be here and hopefully I’ll continue to stay.”
That was always a longshot. On Saturday, O’Hagan’s ride ended.
He and fellow Long Island product Jake Carlock, an outside linebacker from Babylon and LIU Post, were among the undrafted rookies and veterans who were cut as the Giants trimmed their roster to reach the 53-man limit. Both have opportunities now to catch on with another team, either claimed on waivers or signed as free agents after clearing that process Sunday afternoon. They also might be signed to the practice squad with the Giants or elsewhere. Carlock also has the ability to be a long-snapper, which might be valuable for the Giants as they kept Zak DeOssie for that job and cut Taybor Pepper who had been his backup. His position coach and coordinators raved about his energy and enthusiasm on the field.
But the dream of making the active roster out of training camp has evaporated for both of them, along with 34 other Giants and about 1,100 other players around the NFL.
“The group of 90 that was with us through the spring and summer bought into what we are building here and created the kind of competition that makes for tough decisions,” Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said on Saturday. “For the players who were released today, we thank them for their effort and commitment, and we told them to stay ready because you never know when your next opportunity will come, either here or somewhere else.”
The Giants haven’t had a Long Island-produced player on their active roster since Jumbo Elliott (Sachem) was with them from 1988-95.
Though neither made the initial team, both players gathered a lifetime’s worth of experiences this summer.
O’Hagan will be remembered as the first player to snap the ball to Daniel Jones in a Giants uniform, an event that took place in rookie minicamp in May. As a lifelong Jets fan, he also had the somewhat rare chance to beat the Patriots as he did on Thursday, albeit as a Giant and in a preseason game.
Carlock, who grew up a Giants fan, had a thrilling interception that he returned for a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Jets and was pulled forward by Shurmur in the postgame locker room to address the entire team. He gave the football from that play to his father in Babylon.
Said Carlock at the time: “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life for sure.”