WR Brandon Collins runs a drill in mini camp.
Every summer, several dozen undrafted free agents join NFL squads for training camp, hoping to become the next Victor Cruz—a soon-to-be multi-million dollar athlete who enjoyed a meteoric rise from obscurity.
For most of these NFL hopefuls, the dream is cut short at the end of training camp or during the preseason, when teams start trimming the fat from their rosters, which shrink from 90 men in August to just 53 men in September.
However, there are a handful of successful former UDFAs scattered across the league. Not all of them become Cruz-like celebrities, but many can hold their own with the league's hand-picked prodigies. This article will highlight all 10 of the New York Giants' undrafted rookies in camp this summer.
A group of young WRs receive some instruction during mini camp.
After releasing another undrafted rookie, running back Jeremy Wright, the Giants signed wide receiver Keith Carlos, who played his college ball with the Purdue Boilermakers. He went undrafted in 2011 and landed with the Philadelphia Eagles for only a short period of time.
Now, nearly two years later, he is attempting to make the Giants' squad as a rookie again. The Connecticut native has experience playing both receiver and running back, making him just the type of versatile athlete head coach Tom Coughlin tends to favor.
Carlos played a limited role in Purdue's offense, never recording more than 500 yards—rushing or receiving—in a single season. He was, however, an all-conference selection at Lackawanna College in 2008, before transferring to Purdue.
Wide receiver Brandon Collins is back again this spring after failing to separate himself from a crowded cast of talented pass-catchers in 2012. Although he was a member of the Giants' practice squad last season, he is still listed as a rookie on the roster since he has no NFL playing experience.
Among undrafted rookies, Collins has a relatively good shot at making the team. However, as Collins proved last year, an impressive spring does not always yield a roster spot in September. After playing well in OTAs a year ago, Collins disappeared in training camp and the preseason. He was cut when the Giants narrowed their roster to 75 men.
This summer, Collins will try to prolong the success he's had early on. If he avoids fizzling out this time, he could settle in nicely on the Giants' wide receiver depth chart.
The Giants could find a hidden gem in wide receiver Kevin Hardy, who is known for his blazing speed. After going undrafted in 2012, the graduate of The Citadel was signed by the New Orleans Saints, but he did not make the team. Like many other NFL hopefuls, Hardy is coming back for a second shot at stardom in 2013.
Hardy is extremely raw but could be used as a return specialist. He was originally a member of The Citadel's track team, where he specialized in the long jump. Hardy collected three conference titles in the event during his collegiate career. It is uncertain whether or not Hardy will be able to translate his track ability onto the gridiron.
At The Citadel, Hardy did not stand out statistically—his best offensive season was his sophomore year, when he caught just 14 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown—but his athleticism has not gone unnoticed. His 4.4 second 40-yard dash time helped him become one of The Citadel's all-purpose yardage leaders during his senior season.
TE Jamie Childers hauls in a pass during mini camp.
Tight end Jamie Childers was signed to a reserve/futures contract back in January. Of the three players who signed with New York under this type of contract in 2013, Childers is the only one still holding a roster spot.
Childers originally landed with the St. Louis Rams after going undrafted in 2011, but he was released during the preseason. In college, at Coastal Carolina, Childers played both quarterback and tight end. After playing in nine games (three starts) during his sophomore season, Childers was moved to tight end to better utilize his athleticism.
He bears similarity with another Giants tight end, Bear Pascoe, who also started out at quarterback before he was switched to tight end at Fresno State.
During OTAs the Giants added another tight end, Chase Clement, to round out a wide-open race for the starting tight end job. It would be unlikely for Clement to beat out the likes of Brandon Myers or Adrien Robinson, but the LSU product could prove to be a sleeper.
With the Tigers, Clement was not a veritable offensive threat; he produced a meager 14/189/1 stat line, despite logging time in 53 games throughout his collegiate career. He was, however, singled out by his coaching staff at LSU for his outstanding blocking, earning him a reputation as one of the team's most valuable players.
Clement may not develop into the next John Mackey at the NFL level, but he will bring strong blocking ability to a unit in need of it.
LB Etienne Sabino, a newcomer to the Giants.
After spending the 2012 season as a spectator on the Giants' practice squad, linebacker Jake Muasau aims for a more impactful role during his second go-around as an undrafted rookie. New York's linebackers have been hurting for quite a while now, but a dose of Muasau could be just what the unit has been missing.
Originally thought of as one of the many odd men out, Muasau has surprised the Giants coaching staff on his still incomplete journey to capture a roster spot on the 53-man team. He was an outside linebacker at Georgia State, where he was named defensive MVP in 2010 and 2011, but the Giants believe he is more effective in the middle.
With Mark Herzlich and Dan Connor leading the way in a shaky competition for the starting middle linebacker job, it would not be surprising to see Muasau swoop into the mix.
The Giants certainly need help at linebacker, and Etienne Sabino is the team's most recent addition to the unit. Usually, the last man added is the first one to go, but that might not end up being the case for Sabino and the Giants in 2013.
Looking to line up long-term behind his former Ohio State teammate Jonathan Hankins, Sabino will hunt for an opening this summer. Although his best fit is on the strong side, Sabino is athletic and versatile enough to make an impact in several different roles.
Injuries are usually rampant among Giants linebackers during this time of year, so it is more than likely that Sabino will have every opportunity to show the coaching staff everything he's got. It will be up to the coaches to decide if Sabino's input is worth a roster spot.
Some young DBs watch attentively during Giants mini camp.
Cornerback Charles James is not an average undrafted rookie. He is a motivated young athlete who has overcome a great deal of adversity in the past to get to where he is today.
In college, James made the football team as a walk-on at Charleston Southern. He survived both a car wreck and classroom struggles to work his way up the depth chart to a starting spot. By his sophomore year, James was an All-American.
James has drawn early praise from his coaches. Despite his small stature (5'9", 179 lbs.), James has flashed enough potential to catch the eye of not only cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta, but also head coach Tom Coughlin.
James has a strong drive to make the team, but an undrafted rookie must show more than sheer motivation. The eye-catching plays must become habitual for James.
The Giants dipped into Florida International's talent pool to find Junior Mertile, a defensive back with wide receiver roots. Unlike most who transition from receiver to cornerback, Mertile was a rather productive pass-catcher, making an impact even as a freshman in 2008.
After a season-ending injury forced him to redshirt his sophomore season, Mertile returned as a cornerback and immediately led the team in interceptions. He was a key contributor who did not miss a game during his final two seasons at FIU.
For Mertile to make the team, he'll have to make a few spectacular plays. As a former wide receiver, Mertile's ball skills may give him an upper hand on other young defensive backs in camp. He'll need them if he plans on being with the team beyond the preseason.
Every undrafted rookie knows that the way to make an NFL squad is to stand out on special teams. If that holds true, then no undrafted rookie currently on the Giants roster is in better position than safety Alonzo Tweedy, a special teams whiz from Virginia Tech.
Tweedy may not cut it as an NFL-level safety right away, but landing a roster spot as a special teamer will give him ample time to develop. His combination of size (6'2", 197 lbs.) and speed (4.39 sec. 40-yd.) make him the perfect gunner of the punt team. His punter at Tech, A.J. Hughes, simply says of Tweedy, "He's a freak," per SNYGiants.
Tweedy's best friends in camp need to be special teams coordinator Tom Quinn and punter Steve Weatherford. If he can get synchronized with those two, Tweedy could provide the Giants with a serious advantage when both the offense and defense are resting.