Kadarius Toney was stretching with his teammates before practice at training camp on Thursday when he heard a few familiar notes and lyrics from the speakers around the field.
They were playing his song.
Not as in one that he enjoys or gets him motivated. It actually was his song.
When he is not playing football, Toney spends his time producing music under the stage name Yung Joka. He typically tries to keep those two careers separate, but they collided to create a sonic boom in East Rutherford.
“It was pretty great, I ain’t gonna lie,” Toney said. “It kind of surprised me and had me juiced up. I was like, ‘OK, OK, OK.’ But I appreciate them doing it because it shows me their willingness to have a good relationship with me.”
It’s a relationship that may be the most important in the organization — certainly one that was most in need of repairing when last season ended.
Sidelined most of the year by injuries and other issues — some of them stemming from his decisions and others beyond his control — Toney spent his rookie season under perpetual cloud cover. A few rays of sunshine were able to peek through — such as the standout game he had in Dallas with 10 catches — but for the most part, it seemed as if Toney and the Giants were, if not in a constant state of conflict, at least unable to see eye- to-eye on many matters.
Now, though, the regime that brought Toney here with a first-round pick is gone. The new group has been working hard to create and maintain a solid connection with him.
Through three days of training camp, it’s been nothing but sunshine.
“I think he is a very loyal guy, and you have to build trust with KT,” coach Brian Daboll said. “He had to build trust with me. Trust is probably one of the most important things in any relationship you build. But from Day 1, I have been very happy with KT, his approach, how he is as a person first and foremost . . . He’s a good young player who we’re going to help develop any way we can on and off the field.”
That starts with a holistic appreciation for Toney . . . and an interest in Yung Joka.
“He’d send me songs here and there throughout the offseason, I’d ask him for some songs,” Daboll said of his decision to include Toney’s music in the pre-practice soundtrack. “There are some [songs] I like better than others. But he’s a talented guy.”
On the field, the Giants’ offense appears to have more flexibility and creativity than last year’s version, all of which suits Toney’s athleticism. That was on display from very early in training camp, when Toney made a leaping one-handed grab of a pass from Daniel Jones for a touchdown.
“It was a conversion route I turned into a fade,” Toney said. “Went up and made a play. It’s just a mindset.”
Everyone on the offense came rushing at Toney to celebrate the play . . . including Daboll, who sprinted to join the party.
“He told me he was tired after it,” Toney said.
There have been some bumps, too. Toney had a handful of drops in Thursday’s practice. On Friday, there were several instances when he appeared to run a route Jones was not expecting or lined up in the wrong place.
Even those gaffes, which would have earned him a penalty lap around the field a year ago, were met with jokes and smiles, and a friendly shoulder bump from Daboll.
“I like that they came here,” Toney said of Daboll and his lighthearted staff. “It’s definitely a lot of fun out there, a lot of juice and a lot of energy.”
It’s one of the reasons why Toney flashed his bejeweled grilled-out smile more in 10 minutes of speaking with reporters on Friday than he did all of last season, when he more often was scowling, mumbling and trying to navigate the “speculation” that dogged him.
“I feel good,” he said.
If that leads to Toney reaching his potential on the field on Sundays, it will be better music to the ears of the Giants than anything Yung Joka could produce.