It didn’t take long for the quote to make its way down the grapevine and to Giants rookie safety Nat Berhe.
Speaking to the media earlier this month, safeties coach David Merritt was discussing the list of players who had impressed him during the preseason opener versus Buffalo. Eventually, he got to Berhe.
“The Missile,” Merritt said. “That’s going to be his new nickname because he is going to go in there like a missile.”
Sure enough, the coach’s words were near immediately presented to Berhe. His response?
“Who’s ‘The Missile,’” Berhe said with a laugh.
Since having the name all but written across his back, Berhe has done his best to hit just about anything that moves during practice and at games. On his first NFL snap, the 6-0, 194-pound Berhe ran headfirst into an offensive tackle, bounced off and then pursued the running back.
The way he sees it, that’s how he’s always played football. He’s never thought much, he’s just gone out and done it. If anything ever needed to be done on the team, Berhe was normally the one to do it. That hasn’t changed now that he’s reached the NFL.
“Whatever the team needs me to do I’m going to do it,” Berhe said. “If that means playing fullback on punt, or running down on the kickoff. I’m willing to do it all.”
In his first three preseason games, Berhe has recorded seven combined tackles and frequently found himself around the ball. Still, there are aspects of his game that he admits he’s still working on.
During his time at San Diego State, playing the run was more of a “see ball, get ball” assignment. Now, Berhe is realizing who to match up with and when to match up with them. It’s no longer just about running to the ball, it’s about playing in gaps.
It’s all a learning curve for the 23-year old. The question now is how quick before it all clicks. Following Cooper Taylor’s injury versus the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants may need Berhe far sooner than originally anticipated.
This past Saturday, Taylor was carted off the field with a foot injury. Speaking to the media the following day, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the team should expect to be without last year’s fifth-round pick for some time.
Berhe heard the news on Taylor, a player who has been helping the rookie in his transition to the pros, and realized there was now an opportunity. Taylor had been working as the Giants second-team safety alongside Quintin Demps and behind starters Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.
Theoretically, Berhe should now slide in next to Demps.
Demps, Rolle and Brown have all been players Berhe has been watching extensively whenever he gets the chance. Be it on the field, in the film room or how the group conducts themselves at meetings.
The way Berhe see it, each player has something they do exceptionally well, or, in his words, their “super powers.”
“Antrel is the ‘masked magician,’” Berhe said. “He’ll come down and show man, then get out and play cover two and you’re like, ‘Damn, how did he do that before the snap?’ Then you at Stevie and he’s just the master of the post. He can identify a route combination so quickly.
“Then there’s Q, he’s the all-around guy who can kind of play both. You take a little bit form each of them and try to add it to your game.”
So where does Berhe fit into the equation?
“I like to bring the boom,” he said.