Prince Amukamara was talking about his leadership style when he mentioned that he played point guard on his high school's basketball team. Suddenly, from his right, a group of teammates who overheard the exchange began to heckle and taunt him and his hoop skills. None of the interrupters are starters for the Giants, like Amukamara is. None of them were first-round draft picks, like Amukamara was. None of them owns a Super Bowl ring, like Amukamara does. Some of them, like safety Bennett Jackson, have never even played an NFL game.
Amukamara just smiled at their jeers.
It was a better illustration of his place on this year's team than any basketball anecdote would have been anyway.
In many ways he's the Anti-Antrel, the soft-spoken, good-natured, hardly-ever-worked-up player who now finds himself as the longest-tenured player in a Giants defensive secondary that lost several of its leaders this offseason. Antrel Rolle is the biggest name, but the Giants are also without Walter Thurmond, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps, all established veterans who were unafraid to step up and take control of the group when such actions needed to be done.
Now that job could come to Amukamara, who for the first four years of his NFL career was considered the little brother of the secondary.
"He's the big brother," fellow cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He's the captain, we follow his lead."
It's hard to imagine anyone interrupting a media session held by Rolle or Eli Manning or any of the other recent Giants captains, and impossible to picture them doing so with teasing remarks. They have an aura that commands respect. Amukamara? In some ways, he's still the guy who got dumped in the cold tub in his second training camp. And that's the way he likes it.
"I kind of like that relationship where I try to be the comical guy, but the business guy on the field too," Amukamara said after the chuckles from his locker neighbors died off. "I like how guys aren't afraid to call me out. If Antrel messed up, I don't think guys, especially second-year guys, would go to him and be like 'Come on!' But I like how we have that relationship.
"I try to loosen guys up off the field, but on the field you want to be taken seriously so I try to distinguish the two."
The players seem to enjoy it, too. After years of having Rolle's intensity, Amukamara's relaxed style could be a good change of pace.
"He's a goofy little guy," Rodgers-Cromartie said of Amukamara. "There's nothing too serious with him, so that's a good thing."
Amukamara said he sees his role as a leader coming by default. He isn't going to step in and fill the role that Rolle had on the defense for all of Amukamara's career, mostly because he isn't convinced it even needs filling.
"I wouldn't say every team needs that," Amukamara said. "Antrel led his way, which way he thought was right. We're just going to go with the flow. I don't think that void needs to be filled necessarily."
Still, Amukamara said, when this team faces adversity -- and it will, if not on the level of the past two arduous seasons then at the very least during some games -- he's going to keep an eye out to see who steps up and becomes a vocal leader to guide the secondary through it.
It probably won't be Rodgers-Cromartie, the second-year Giant who admits that he is too "chill" and "in my own zone" to be that kind of shepherd. It might be rookie safety Landon Collins, who has already become a voice on the field for the team. It's unlikely that it will be any of the other players who have limited experience with the team and in the league.
It will most likely have to be Amukamara. The former point guard.
"Part of your role [as point guard] is to get everyone on the same page, on one accord, make sure everything is going smoothly," Amukamara said. "It's in my nature."