They parade through the room by the hundreds each year.
The NFL Combine interviews, a speed-dating type of introduction to as many players as possible in as short a time as possible. There’s barely time for chitchat, maybe a chance to squeeze in a few questions on X’s and O’s, and then it’s on to the next one.
But when Dalvin Tomlinson walked through the door earlier this year in Indianapolis, it was quite different.
“Man, that was one of the best [interviews], definitely this year and it will be one that you talk about for a long time as one of the more memorable ones we’ve had,” Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross said. “Just smart, mature, poised, confident. He was a man. He walked in the room and had a commanding presence. As they say at Alabama, he’s a man’s man.”
And now, they’re saying that about him at the Giants.
They selected the defensive tackle in the second round on Friday night with the 55th overall pick, and the thinking is that by the time the opener comes around on Sept. 10 he’ll be lined up in the middle of the defense ready to try to stop the Cowboys and their rushing attack.
Tomlinson effectively replaces Johnathan Hankins, who left for the Colts in free agency just a few weeks ago, and follows a tradition the Giants have established for themselves with drafting defensive tackles in the second round. They took Linval Joseph there in 2010, they took Hankins there in 2013. And now they have Tomlinson, one of the overshadowed keys to Alabama’s championship defenses of the past few years.
“Obviously Hank left and that created a little bit of a void,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “The last two big guys we had we weren’t able to keep them and they moved on to better situations for them and we’ve drafted some guys who have come in and filled the gap for us.”
Reese, though, made it clear that Tomlinson would have been on the board even if Hankins had re-signed with the Giants.
“We just wanted to try to get good players and stayed true to our board,” he said. “He’s a big guy who we think can come in and compete for a starting job for us. He’s got that NFL toughness that we like, that profile that we like.”
He’ll also join a defensive line that is stacked with three Pro Bowl-level starters in ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul and fellow tackle Damon Harrison. Those veterans are all under contract for the next four years. Now Tomlinson will be, too.
“We have three studs on the line, right?” Ross said. “The next guy, he can kind of come in and learn from those guys and play his role without a lot of big expectations. Just go and play.”
As impressive as Tomlinson has been on the field — the Giants talked about him being “country strong” and picking up “dirty production” — it’s his off-the-field character that stands out. He lost his father at a young age and his mother died when he was a senior in high school. He had to overcome torn ACLs in both of his knees before he ever became a regular player for Alabama. But he was able to persevere through all of that.
“I’ve been through a lot of adversity,” Tomlinson said. “I feel like I’m ready for the NFL.”
Tomlinson, 23, was a teammate of Giants safety Landon Collins at Alabama. In his five years there he earned a pair of bachelor’s degrees in finance.
But ultimately, it wasn’t the interview, his smarts, or his upbringing that the Giants selected.
“We want him to play football,” Reese said. “We don’t want him to come in and do our taxes. We want him to come in and stop that run and push that pocket so our defensive ends can get to the quarterback.”
DT, Alabama / 6-3, 310
Had 62 tackles, 5.5 for a loss, with 3.0 sacks as a senior in 2016 … Has good size and athleticism in the middle … Has torn both of his ACLs but has played without incident for three years … Smart player, was admitted to Harvard and earned two degrees at Alabama … Was the first wrestler in Georgia HS history to win three heavyweight state titles … Was also a soccer player in high school and played striker.