Brandon London Feature: He's Bridging The Gap
Aug. 9, 2007
By Howard Herman, Berkshire Eagle Staff
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Brandon London may hold the University of Massachusetts record for most touchdown catches in a game and he may be the No. 2 all-time receiver in school history. But here at New York Giants training camp, London is just one of 10 guys trying to make a National Football League team.
"Right now, I want to get on the field to show people what I can do," London said yesterday morning after a walk-through practice in helmets but without pads.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin kept yesterday morning's practice light because of the humidity at the University at Albany practice field. Big Blue was scheduled to do a lot of hitting last night.
It's all in preparation for Saturday night's preseason home opener against the Carolina Panthers (WNYT-TV, 8 p.m.). The Giants will play four preseason games, two at Giants Stadium. Their final preseason contest will be at New England on Aug. 30.
"It's like a college camp times three. Everything is faster, a lot of things are more organized," said London, who added that his biggest adjustment since becoming a giant is getting used to playing against better athletes.
"I'm used to going against (players from) a Towson State or a William & Mary," he continued. "Now I'm going against guys who went in the first round or the first day of the draft."
He also said that one of the biggest differences between his UMass career and his short Giants career is that the UMass playbook was a little smaller than the one he has in his dorm room at UAlbany.
"(It's) going from a playbook that was a binder at UMass to a dictionary here," said London with a laugh.
London was one of three undrafted free agent wide receivers who signed with the Giants on May 8. New York also drafted one wide receiver, Southern California's Steve Smith in the second round. He is currently listed as a third-string wide receiver on the Giants' depth chart. The former Minuteman said that while it hasn't always been consistent, he said he's been making progress.
"Right now, I feel as though they've seen a lot of me at receiver. They've seen that during the minicamp and during some of training camp, I can make some nice catches and make some nice plays," London said. "The one thing is that I've been kind of inconsistent. I've dropped some balls that I shouldn't really be putting on the ground. I have to take advantage of every opportunity I have."
During the 2006 season, London caught 50 passes for 781 yards and nine touchdowns. Even if London makes the Giant roster, he wouldn't expect to be on the receiving end of that many passes from quarterback Eli Manning. Not with 12-year veteran Amani Toomer and eight-year vet Plaxico Burress at the head of the receiving line.
But these veteran wide receivers have been welcoming to the rookies who are trying to take their jobs at some point.
"They know we want their jobs, but at the same time they don't want us out there looking ugly. It makes the offense look ugly," said London.
All the veterans, Toomer, Burress and third receiver David Tyree have all been helpful.
"They really took me under their wings. After meetings, I'll stay and watch film with Amani, just to pick his brain as much as I can," said London. "With Plaxico, I watch his every move when he's out on the field and I try to emulate some of his moves. It may not work the way he does it -- but the more I keep working with it, I'm getting better. Those guys have been great."
And how about head coach Coughlin? Coughlin has a reputation in the media as a stern taskmaster and a tough coach to play for. London said that so far, he hasn't seen it.
"Actually he and (UMass coach Don) Brown are kind of the same," London explained. "You hear the yelling, but what people don't see is after you get yelled at, you get coached up -- 'this is what you're expected to do.'
"I heard stories about Coach Coughlin coming in," he continued, "but I haven't seen it. He's been a professional guy."
London admits to having felt some disappointment to not being drafted last April. But he has gotten over that disappointment.
"I definitely had my hopes up. I had my whole family around the TV," he recalled. "I talked to (Giants receivers coach Mike) Sullivan in the sixth round and he said if they weren't going to take me in the seventh round, he was definitely going to do what he could to get me in as a free agent. I didn't sweat it that much. At that point, I was happy to have the opportunity."
Anyone who knows the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also knows that a good chunk of the student body comes from the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, and many have their allegiances to Big Blue.
"Ticket requests have been crazy now," said London. "There are a lot of New York kids around (school). Everybody showed me a lot of love, embraced me and wished me good luck -- hoping that I do make the team so they do have a friend on the Giants."
The first step comes Saturday night in The Meadowlands. Toomer and Burress are nursing minor injuries, and Coughlin said yesterday that neither would start. That could mean some extra snaps for players like London.
"I know I'll be getting special-team reps, because I moved up on the depth chart for special teams. I know they're anxious to see what I'm going to look like out there," he said. "As for receiver, I know all three receiver positions right now. I know (Coughlin's) going to feel comfortable putting me in anywhere."
Brandon London also realizes it's still a long climb up the hill to possibly making the New York Giants. It's a challenge he relishes.
"I think that as of right now, I'm fighting for a job," he said with determination. "Every day is a fight since I wasn't drafted."
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