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When Amani Toomer graduated the University of Michigan and was drafted by the New York Giants, there was a thought that he shoved towards the back of his mind.
The second-round pick had dreams of making it big in the NFL, but when it was time to hang up the cleats, maybe he’d put that degree in communications to good use. Broadcasting? Public Speaking? Possibly, but it was a discussion for another day.
Then, several years later, Toomer saw what ex-Giants teammate Jessie Palmer accomplished with ESPN. The thought he had pushed to the back of his mind came quickly to the forefront. Toomer wanted to do that.
“I just thought, if he can do it, I can do it,” Toomer said following a panel discussion for aspiring sports broadcasters in Atlantic City. “After learning what it actually took to do the job, I got hooked.”
Following his retirement in 2009 after playing 13 seasons in the NFL, Toomer mulled putting claim to practice. He enjoyed retirement, never straying too far from the game before jump-starting his broadcasting career with MSG Varsity in 2011. The initial step was the interest, the next, Toomer said, was actually doing it.
The California native watched ex-Giants’ Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Antonio Pierce and others all jump into the ‘media’ world following their careers. Now, it was his turn.
Toomer joined Roman Oben on “Friday Night Football,” began contributing to NBC SportsTalk and was part of NBC Sports Radio Network’s launch lineup in 2012.
Today, Toomer co-hosts an NFL show on Sirus XM Radio, along with the “Amani and Eytan” show on NBC Sports Radio. Sirus XM allows him to stick with the game he made a career out of, NBC Sports lets him rekindle a past love.
“Being able to do a show on all sports gets me back to where I was before I became an NFL player,” Toomer said. “I was always an all-sports guy. The only sport I cared about was the one that was in season.
“I would go out and play soccer, baseball during baseball season, and basketball. So now you kind of round out the whole career, going full circle, going back to just being an all-around sports fan.”
While Toomer admitted there were the initial bumps when he began his media career – such as the first time he stepped foot in a locker room without pads – the overall experience was easy enough to pick up on. It was “fun” for Toomer, especially when he got to speak his mind without having to bite his tongue. No more would a coach or general manager call him into their office for questioning a call.
Toomer developed every trait a great sportscaster needs. He’s honest and straightforward, critical and intelligent. Biased? A homer? Those he is not.
When asked who the best quarterback in the NFC East was back in 2012, Toomer said Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback Tony Romo. When asked yesterday how good the Giants’ new set of wide receivers can be, he admitted that’s still in the air. Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. have the “talent” to be some of the best, but “talent” only gets you so far.
“Talent gets you in the door, talent gets you on the field,” Toomer said. “Talent doesn’t make you great. You have to have talent, along with work ethic, along with the desire to be great, along with the will to be great to have all those things come together.”
Toomer also didn’t hesitate when diagnosing exactly what went wrong for the Giants’ offense last year. When Toomer spent Sunday’s donning blue, the Giants offense was explosive and Kevin Gilbride was calling the shots.
Gilbride, who called the plays for the Giants from 2006-2013, retired last year.
So what exactly happened? Did Eli Manning digress? Was it injuries? Defenses figuring out what the Giants were attempting to do? In Toomer’s opinion, it’s none of the above.
“If that offense is run by some inexperienced wideouts who don’t really understand defensive concepts, they aren’t gonna be able to play as fast as they should,” Toomer said. “It takes awhile for people to learn that and I think the (Jerrel) Jernigan experience was the reason Gilbride retired.
“It took them three years to figure out if (Jernigan) could play. In the old days, that would be normal, that’s how things went. Now you have to get younger players on the field quicker.”
Toomer said the salary cap has constricted the time teams have to let rookies develop. With quarterback’s contracts skyrocketing, the need for third, fourth and fifth round picks to step up in their first two years is needed. In order to get those players on the field, the offenses need to be simplified.
“You have to dumb down the offenses,” Toomer said. “That’s the new NFL. Are we gonna see better offenses? Are we gonna see crisper play? I don’t know, but that’s the salary cap era we live in.”
No matter the outcome, Toomer’s role in it will be the same. For the first time since he hung up his cleats, Toomer’s doing what he loves.
“Some players once they get done they want to get as far away from football as they possibly can,” Toomer said. “I just felt like, I like sports, I’ve always liked sports, I never really wanted to do anything else.
“So, here I am.”