The Giants signed James O’Hagan to play football, but his new position coach likes what he brings from another sport.
“He was a wrestler,” Giants offensive line coach Hal Hunter said on Wednesday, “so he’s got a lot of balance and he knows how to control his body.”
O’Hagan won a state title in wrestling at Seaford High School before committing to football at the University of Buffalo and getting noticed by the Giants at their local pro day.
Of course, not all wrestlers are signed to NFL rosters, even bloated offseason ones that carry 90 names. O’Hagan had to impress the Giants enough in his tryout with them to warrant his free-agent contract.
“He’s really, really tough,” Hunter said. “He’s fairly smart and he knows how to play with leverage. He’s not quite as big as you’d like him to be (6-1, 300), but by the same token when you play with leverage you can play bigger than you actually are. He has all of that combined.”
Hunter was also impressed with how O’Hagan interacted with the Giants’ top two draft picks in last weekend’s rookie minicamp. Not only did he deliver the ball to quarterback Daniel Jones without incident, but he was lined up against defrensice tackle Dexter Lawrence in most of the team reps.
“Going in there and mixing it up with no pads on, that ain’t for the faint of heart now,” Hunter said. “They line up that big dude from Clemson, I mean, welcome to big-time football right off the bat. But he didn’t back down at all. He really competed.”
Impressing in May and being on the 90-man roster are far different than making the team in September, especially when the Giants already have two established NFL players competing at the position in Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley (not to mention Evan Brown, who was last year’s undrafted free agent darling in the interior of the offensive line; he made the team but did not play).
“He’ll be starting off as the fourth center,” Hunter said. “That’s kind of the way it works. But he’s excited to be here so I’m excited to have him.”
LI's Carlock also turns heads
O’Hagan isn’t the only Long Islander among the Giants’ undrafted rookie class. The team also signed Jake Carlock from Babylon and LIU Post. They spent last weekend at the rookie minicamp teaching him a new position as a hand-down linebacker after he spent his college career as a roving coverage player.
“He was getting into a three-point stance a couple times for the first time,” outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson said. “That looked a little funny, a little strange, but he’s a guy you can kind of direct and he’ll be able to process it and be able to find his way on it. I’m pretty confident with that.”
Aside from his skills, for which the Giants seem to still be trying to find a home on the field, the coaches loved his attitude and energy.
“He played a million miles an hour the whole time so he’s a great guy to be around,” Dawson said.
The thing that could separate Carlock from the group of young linebackers the Giants currently have on the roster is his ability to be a long snapper. That caught special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey’s eye at rookie minicamp. The Giants’ long snapper for the past 11 seasons, Zak DeOssie, was drafted as a linebacker but hasn’t played that position for close to a decade. That could be Carlock’s path to an NFL job, whether it’s with the Giants on their roster, on their practice squad this season, or on another team.
“He’s a young guy with a lot of potential,” McGaughey said. “He can run, he’s very athletic. So we'll see what happens with Jake. We’re excited about the chance of working with him.”