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From Senior Bowl interview to due diligence: How Kadarius Toney made lasting impression on Giants ahead of NFL Draft

Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney (1) sets up

Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney (1) sets up for a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Gainesville, Fla., in this Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, file photo.  Credit: AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack

It was the Giants’ first night in Mobile, Alabama, they had already gone through a bunch of interviews with college prospects at the Senior Bowl, the protocols to protect against the still-raging pandemic were arduous, and the last player on their schedule entered the room for his interview.

It would have been easy for all of them to let their weariness show.

Instead, Kadarius Toney began his journey to becoming a Giant on that January evening.

It wouldn’t be until three months later that the decision became official, and even then, on Thursday night, it required the Giants trading back from the 11th selection to the 20th to make it happen, but Giants director of college scouting Chris Pettit said that meeting – the only face-to-face interaction he had with Toney throughout the entire pre-draft process – made an impression on him.

"That process down there was pretty strenuous going back to back to back with these long interviews," Pettit recalled on Thursday. "It was late in the night, we were tired, we were talking through a plexiglass screen, everyone had masks on, and he brought energy at that point. We loved that. He brought energy to the room, to the conversation. He was easy to talk to, he was open and honest, and we loved everything about that conversation."

That it was the last interview of the night turned out to be an advantage. It meant none of the parties had anywhere to go afterwards and they could spend more time together than the allotted segments for most of the other meetings that took place that week.

‘It was a long meeting," Pettit remembered.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of the scouting process. There was still plenty more work to do on Toney, including research into some of the character red flags that had popped up early in his career at Florida. This was a player who was suspended for the first game of the 2018 season for "not living up to the Gator standard."

The Giants had to be certain he would live up to their standards. After having an inordinant number of recent first-round picks (Ereck Flowers, Eli Apple, DeAndre Baker) turn into busts who never even finished their rookie deals with the team due to immaturity issues, and with so few chances to really get to know any of the prospects off the field, that became the challenge for the team.

"It's no secret I'm pretty particular about who I bring into this building, okay," Joe Judge said. "I think sometimes you have to understand the person, and you have to understand the character on a deeper level than what just may be tweeted out."

For that, the Giants dug deep.

"We use every resource we have," Judge said. "Jeremy Pruitt, who is in our building (as a newly hired senior defensive assistant and former head coach at Tennessee), recruited him out of high school. So we have people in this building with established relationships who have known this guy through the course of not only being in college, but going back to when they were in high school developing as a player. We have numerous coaches that spent a long time recruiting, have had this guy in summer camps for multiple days at a time and had extended exposure to him. We had guys at the pro day. We had Zoom meetings that were allotted by the league. We used those, phone calls."

The end result of the investigation?

"We are very comfortable bringing him to New Jersey," Judge said. "We are very comfortable adding him to our roster to compete with other players on the team."

As for that night at the Senior Bowl, Toney said he remembered that the coaches and executives he met with for the Giants were "very serious, so I made sure on my end that I was up to par, like on point."

Whatever he did and said, it worked.

"It was really great to meet him and get that face-to-face at that point in the scouting process and then watch him throughout the rest of the spring throughout the Zooms," Pettit said. "Over more and more time we really got to know him and got to know the person, and we feel really good about him."

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