Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (catches a pass during training...

Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (catches a pass during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on July 28. Credit: Brad Penner

Kadarius Toney has something special and unexpected planned for his first NFL touchdown.


That’s right. Despite some outside perceptions of him as a potential football showman and team distraction, false characterizations based mostly on  his side career as a rap musician, the second-year wide receiver said celebrating in the end zone is not his style.

“I don’t celebrate like that,” he told Newsday of any choreography or symbolism he might unveil if given the opportunity. “I’m used to scoring so I don’t have to celebrate every time. I celebrate with my teammates because that’s who I’m doing it for, but I don’t really have a celebration that makes it all about me.

“That ain’t me.”

Just one of the many shades to Toney that were blurred in the low-resolution painting of his rookie season, one that saw him sidelined through numerous injuries and issues and kept even the closest observers of the team at arm’s length because of COVID restrictions.

Most of those obstacles are gone now — Toney isn’t even on the team’s injury report this week — and so too, slowly, is that caricature of him as the unhappy, ungrateful, unproductive player. Far from surly and distant, he sits as his locker and playfully interacts with teammates after practices, including sly whispers he exchanges with Daniel Jones, who has the stall right next to his. He has pleasant conversations, even with members of the media who just months ago would have been engaged in combative inquisitions with him. He’s not the two-dimensional person that was presented to the world throughout the 2021 season.

Now all he has to do to fully endear himself to the fan base is score.

That’s something else that eluded him as a rookie, a surprising factoid that illustrated the dysfunction of the Giants’ offense last year. Toney caught 39 passes for 420 yards in 2021 without ever setting foot in the end zone. Only two wide receivers in the NFL had more receptions but no touchdowns: Laviska Shenault Jr. of Jacksonville (now with Carolina) with 63 and Adam Humphries of Washington with 41.

After scoring 12 touchdowns in his senior year at Florida in 2020 — 10 of them receiving, one rushing, one on a punt return — Toney was just as shocked and disappointed as everyone else at his lack of them as a rookie in the NFL

“Coming in the league you try to contribute as much as you can,” he said. “Not getting in the end zone is pretty much like not playing at all at the end of the day.”

While Toney won’t do a special dance or pantomime when that first touchdown comes, perhaps as soon as Sunday when he plays against the Titans, he does have some broad plans for what he’ll do with the ball itself. He said he’ll keep it as a memento in a case in his home.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said of his first visit to an NFL end zone. “But I feel like it’s important because at the end of the day I’m here for my team just by getting in there.”

Toney remembers his first touchdown in college. It was against Kentucky in his third game with Florida on Sept. 23, 2017. It came on a 36-yard run in the second quarter of a 28-27 victory. He took the snap in a Wildcat formation.

There’s no way to tell how he might score his first NFL touchdown. He might catch it or run with it. He might return it. Heck, he might even throw it.

But it doesn’t matter how he crosses the goal line. All that matters is that he does.

“Fact,” he said to that hypothesis.

For a guy trying to overcome a lot of fiction, that may become the biggest truth of his career.

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