Since moving three time zones from Seattle to New York, Walter Thurmond has been doing a lot of talking. As a former member of the Seahawks' world-famous "Legion of Boom" secondary and the nickel cornerback for the defending Super Bowl champions, that shouldn't surprise anyone.
But the Giants might not have been expecting such fire from Thurmond this early in his tenure with the team. The 26-year-old signed a $3 million contract in March, but before the end of April, he was already embroiled in a Twitter war with Eagles slot corner Brandon Boykin and making headlines by claiming that he's the best slot corner in the league and the Giants could have the NFL's best secondary.
Thurmond's road to New Jersey has had its ups and downs—he was suspended four games last year for violating the league's substance abuse policy, a marijuana-related offense—but now he knows he has a chance to make a large impact on a defense that needs him in a big way.
On Wednesday, I spoke with the former fourth-round pick about his new head coach, some of his new teammates, life without weed, life outside of football and his role with the G-Men.
Bleacher Report: You've gone from playing for the second-oldest coach in the league to the oldest coach in the league, but age is about all Tom Coughlin and Pete Carroll have in common. I know it's early, but tell me about the differences between those two coaches.
Walter Thurmond: I guess the biggest thing is Pete Carroll is a more laid back coach as far as the way he conducts his business with the team. It's more of a college atmosphere. But it's a young team, so that's one of the reasons why he keeps it lively. Tom Coughlin is more old school and very business-oriented.
At the end of the day, they're both great coaches. Their ideas of winning are pretty similar. They both carry that championship mindset, and Coughlin has the proof with two championships, and Pete winning his first one last year.
B/R: Does Coughlin scare you? Because he'd scare the hell out of me.
WT: No, I didn't really know what to expect though. You see him in the media from afar, but once I came over here and really got to meet him and really connect with him, he was a great guy. He's really personable. He's a very candid person and just a great guy overall. I was really taken aback by who he was as a person. I really connected with him and the whole coaching staff, which was one of the biggest reasons why I made the decision to come out here and play for the Giants.
B/R: So do you think Coughlin is misunderstood by those who haven't gotten to truly know him?
WT: I think he most definitely is. If you just take everything from what you see on TV or the media and not have your own personal experience with him, he's truly misunderstood. Like I said, he's a great guy. But when it's time to do business, it's business time. You really do have to meet him for yourself to get the full effect and appreciation for Tom Coughlin.
B/R: You'll also be going up against Victor Cruz now in practice. You've faced him before. Where does he rank among slot receivers you've had to deal with?
WT: He is a premier slot receiver. He is one of the best in the league. I look forward to going against him in practice so that I can get a better gauge. I would have him and Doug Baldwin as the best slot receivers in the game. I could be a little bit biased in saying Doug is the best slot receiver in the game, just because I played with him last year...but Victor has tremendous ability, and I'm really looking forward to working with him.
B/R: That makes things especially tough on Brandon Boykin when you guys face each other. I know you'll be pulling extra hard for Victor in those matchups, right?
WT: [Laughs] Yeah, but it's about winning games regardless of who we're going against, and ultimately bringing home a championship to New York.
B/R: Will Hill was supposed to be your new teammate in that secondary as a starting safety, but he's now facing a long suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy. Have you talked to him? Do you have any advice as a guy who has been through that and gotten back on track?
WT: He's been there every day at workouts. From where I'm sitting, as far as working out, he carries those leadership qualities. First one in line, he's really aggressive with his workouts. If he does get suspended, the biggest thing I could tell him is just to be positive and continue to work out and that his teammates fully support him at the end of the day. That was one of the things that I dealt with in my situation. Everyone makes mistakes—the biggest thing is to learn from those mistakes and move forward.
B/R: Obviously you're not able to smoke marijuana now. Is abstaining hard for you?
WT: You have to grasp it, regardless of what is considered right or wrong. At the end of the day, any workplace, you have to abide by the rules. And [in the NFL] those things aren't tolerated. It's something that you have to live with in this situation and come to terms with. You have to have that self control and not use it.
B/R: I do think players unfortunately get lumped together as troublemakers when they've been suspended for drug use. You have a lot of good things going on. Tell me about your charity involvement.
WT: Yeah, like I was saying about Tom Coughlin, the media always portrays people in a certain light without really getting to know the individual, and so we do have this stigma—especially in the United States—of really being judgmental and labeling guys for small incidents. Life is about making mistakes and, most important, being able to learn from those mistakes. There are guys who get labeled as this and that who are really great people and do work in the community.
Myself personally, as soon as I came here I got to meet with the United Way. I'm going to be hands-on with them as far as helping out with reading in New York City. ... Education is really a point that touches me personally, and I just want to help educate the youth because they're the future.
My foundation, The Walter Thurmond Foundation for Arts and Literacy, helps promote youth to be able to achieve their goals, whether it be in film, music, sports. Education is the most important thing in being able to succeed in this world. Just being able to read and write is a core foundation that you and I both have, but we need to get the youth to garner and possess those qualities at the end of the day.
I did get suspended, but I made a mistake. That's not who I am at the end of the day. There's much more to me.
B/R: Well said. Have you talked to Perry Fewell about what your role will be this year? Can you shed some light on that?
WT: Being a competitor, I want to play on the outside as well in the slot. When I talked to Coach Fewell as well as other coaches, it was about really having that role as a nickel cornerback. There's a need there. They had Antrel [Rolle] playing there, and they got rid of Terrell Thomas, so they really wanted me to come in and play the nickel position.
But being a competitor, I'm going to compete for the outside. It's up for competition at the end of the day. I would think the one spot would be locked down with [Dominique] Rodgers-Cromartie, just because of the money they have [committed to him], but I feel like the other corner spot is probably open for competition. My plan is to go out there and compete for a starting job and make it tough for the coaching staff.
B/R: Any thoughts on what the Giants should do in the draft?
WT: I'm not really sure what their needs are, but talking to some of the guys, I've heard offensive line maybe. I haven't really got to really break down the film on the Giants as a whole team last year, but I know the defensive side of the ball is pretty young, especially in the front four. It's going to be an interesting situation, because they have made a lot of offseason transactions to really beef up that defense.
As we've seen, defenses do win championships...so you really have to have a strong defensive presence in the NFL, especially because it's a pass-happy league. I think they've done a great job of really trying to beef up that defense, and now it's just going to be changing that mindset and culture of the defense to be aggressive.
B/R: And you already have the best secondary in the NFL, right?
WT: [Laughs] I believe we have the potential. It's going to be tough to take that crown from the Legion of Boom out there in Seattle, with that group of guys and their competitive nature, their drive to be great. But it really comes down to a mindset. We really have to have that mindset here in New York that we want to be the best.
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