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LB Uani' Unga fighting odds to make Giants' roster

New York Giants linebacker Uani' Unga does a

New York Giants linebacker Uani' Unga does a drill during mini-camp on June 18, 2015 at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP / Evan Pinkus

Uani' Unga has gone too far to turn back.

There were too many days spent wondering how he was going to provide for his three kids, and too many grueling months recuperating from an ACL injury that threatened to ruin a promising career. When he's on the field at middle linebacker, there are too many players counting on him for his voice to be choked with doubt.

It does exist, though, especially Tuesday, when Unga waited before learning he had survived the first round of cuts. Teams had until 4 p.m. to whittle their rosters to 75. Although he's been impressive in preseason, there is no guarantee he'll have a roster spot come Saturday's final cut.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said starting middle linebacker Jon Beason is feeling better and is "optimistic'' about his return from foot surgery. Beason jogged at practice and, Coughlin said, "He's been a little more aggressive each day'' in his rehab. Jameel McClain is ahead of the 6-1, 233-pound Unga on the depth chart, but Unga has been coming in on passing downs. But even if Unga doesn't make the team, he insists he won't give up.

"I've kind of put my family in a rough spot,'' he said after practice, about two hours before the cuts deadline. "I have three kids and I haven't had a job for who knows how long. We've been going through the struggle. We've had help from my wife's family and my own, and that's how we've gotten through this.

"I'm telling my wife that since I got hurt that we're just going to be in this no matter how long it takes. I'm trying to take my shot and I finally got it, and I'm hoping it works out for the best.''

Unga's career has been riddled with stops and stutters. A Mormon, his two-year mission to Guatemala pushed back his college career. He played at Oregon State for two years, and at Brigham Young for his last two. At BYU he was a walk-on captain and led the country in tackles as a senior before injuring an ACL in his final game. He required months of recuperation and wasn't drafted.

Days before he turned 27 last Dec. 28, the Giants signed him to the practice squad. He's at the age when players who haven't made it begin wondering if they ever will. It's a thought he fights, with support from his wife, Lachelle.

"I'm always cautious of the worst and so my wife tries to get me out of that mentality,'' he said. "Be more confident. She believes in me more than I do myself. I think that's kind of helped me to know that I'm never going to settle. I'm always going to try to just get better.''

At middle linebacker, he needs confidence to be a leader, and he's been working on it. He said Beason has been a great help, pointing out details he otherwise would have missed. Unga made a team-high eight combined tackles Saturday against the Jets and had an interception in practice Monday.

Unga said he isn't as in over his head as he first assumed he'd be.

"Always, since I was a little kid, it's always been a long shot,'' he said. "Finally, when I got my foot in the door, still, that same day, it still felt like a long shot. But I'm going to keep going until it's just completely out of range. I'm going to keep fighting.''

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