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.
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In case you missed it, articles from BBI today:
August 17, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: Four New York Giants were injured in the team’s 27-26 comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night: CB Prince Amukamara (groin), S Cooper Taylor (foot/toe), OT Charles Brown (shoulder), and DT Markus Kuhn (elbow).
Taylor sustained an injury to the sesamoid bone in his foot.
“Cooper is significant and he has an injury that will require quite a bit of time,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “That is most unfortunate for the young man…It is a foot injury again. It is one of those sesamoid deals up under the toe. It’s excessive enough that they are saying he will be out for quite some time.”
Regarding Amukamara, Coughlin said, “I believe he will (an MRI). It is a groin and whenever you have something like that with a position that of course Prince Amukamara plays you are concerned. We will see, I don’t know that it is day to day but he is sore.”
On Brown, Coughlin said, “I’m not sure exactly how much time Charles Brown will miss, but there may be some time in there. I know the normal deal here is to put them in a brace or fit them for a brace as soon as he is capable with playing without the soreness, so we will see.”
Coughlin said Kuhn hyperextended his elbow but will likely be able to play with the injury.
August 17, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript from Sunday’s media conference call with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at BigBlueInteractive.com. Some tidbits from Coughlin:
- “We continue to not really have very many big plays. We had some at the end of the game. There are not enough plays being made by our starters on the offensive or defensive side of the ball…All of the sudden the preseason is flying by here, and we do have an awful lot still to accomplish.”
- “I think we have to work on a lot of things. Basically we have to work on everything. Last night we didn’t run it, we certainly didn’t throw the ball with any consistency. We don’t have people who are definitely running open. Our protection does break down from time to time and we don’t react well under pressure when we do realize that there has to be a hot or sight adjustment involved in getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand and trying to accomplish a positive play in the face of pressure.”
- “We are not stuck with anything (on the offensive line). As I said, just because five guys trot out there doesn’t mean that’s the starting unit.”
- “(The starters) better (play with a sense of urgency). It’s not written in stone about what you do with the last preseason game either (in terms of the starters not playing much).”
August 16, 2014 Tom Coughlin Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference on Saturday night is available at Giants.com.
New York Giants Post-Game Player Media Sessions: Transcripts and video clips of the post-game media Q&As on Saturday night with the following players are available at Giants.com:
- QB Eli Manning (Video)
- QB Ryan Nassib (Video)
- WR Corey Washington (Video)
- TE Adrien Robinson (Video)
- OT Will Beatty (Video)
NY Post Q&A with LB Jameel McClain: Serby’s Sunday Q&A with Jameel McClain by Steve Serby of The New York Post
Article on the Giants-Colts Game: Giants: 10 positives to take from victory over the Colts includes the improving linebackers by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com
Articles on the New York Giants Wide Receivers:
- ‘You’re going to think about it’: Rueben Randle has Super dreams by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
- Unheralded WR catching TD after TD for Giants — against all odds by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
Article on DE Israel Idonije: No Longer an Impact Player, a Giant Finds a Way to Deliver a Kaboom by Zach Schonbrun of The New York Times
Article on LB Jacquian Williams: Soft-spoken Giants LB Williams ready for loud year on field by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post
Article on CB Walter Thurmond: Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond III is a filmmaker by Tom Rock of Newsday
Every time Zak DeOssie steps onto the New York Giants’ practice field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, the 30-year-old long snapper dresses in full pads.
It doesn’t matter if his teammates are in shorts, shells, half pads or full themselves, DeOssie is dressed the exact same way he does on game day. From his helmet, to his shoulder pads and down to his cleats, there’s no difference between Sunday DeOssie and Monday-through-Saturday Zak.
“Why not?” DeOssie said. “I never snap without them.”
It’s that attention to detail that has made DeOssie one of the NFL’s best at one of the game’s least-decorated positions. It’s that same attention to detail that had him voted the Giants’ special teams captain the last two seasons. It’s that same attention to detail that has kept DeOssie in East Rutherford for the last eight years.
He’s not glamorous and he doesn’t want to be. He doesn’t need to hear his named called, see it in lights or plastered across billboards. His job is simple:
“I throw strikes,” DeOssie said.
Something he never thought he’d be doing when he entered the league out of Brown University in 2007.
A NATURAL ABILITY
Sports have always been a big part of DeOssie’s life. In high school at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts, DeOssie was a three-sport athlete, staring on the baseball diamond, basketball court and football field.
While he loved every sport he played in, there was one that held a place in his heart above any other: Football. DeOssie was his team’s starting quarterback and a good one at that. He was voted to the ‘All-New England’ prep team and dazzled fans with his play under the Friday night lights.
But it wasn’t until a practice his senior year that DeOssie realized he wasn’t just able to throw the ball down the field, but he was pretty good throwing it between his legs, too.
After an injury forced the team’s long snapper to miss extended time, Phillips Academy coach Leon Modeste made a call to one of his player’s parents who had just a little bit of experience in the area. Steve DeOssie, Zak’s dad, who had played both linebacker and long snapper in the NFL for over a decade, came to practice to teach some the team’s players how to snap.
“I was basically just giving some of his teammates and players a few pointers,” Steve DeOssie said. “Next thing I know (Zak) walks over to the group and starts paying attention to everything that’s going on.”
Recalling the moment, Steve DeOssie chuckled thinking of the skinny-legged DeOssie lining up to practice a snap. Zak DeOssie took his stance, spread his legs and then sent the ball flying between his legs 12 yards back with near-perfect accuracy.
It was the first time in his life he’d ever tried to long snap a ball. After a few reps, DeOssie said goodbye to his dad and ran back to the quarterbacks group.
It didn’t matter how good or natural he was because he’d never do it in a game. DeOssie was his team’s punter, too.
A LOST LOVE
When DeOssie committed to Brown University, he gave up his days as a signal caller and turned his attention to bringing opponents down. The physicality and violent nature of being a linebacker was something DeOssie loved.
In his four seasons at Brown, DeOssie started 29 of 36 games. He recorded 315 tackles, 10.5 sacks, forced five fumbles and intercepted four passes. He was voted first-team All-Ivy League three times, was a third-team All-American and a Buchanan Award finalist twice.
He snapped a little his senior year, but he was primarily a linebacker. That’s how he viewed himself. NFL scouts, too. Those that watched DeOssie play loved his 6-4, 249-pound size. He was physical, a natural leader and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds.
When the NFL Draft came, DeOssie heard his named called by a familiar team. The New York Giants, the same team that his dad had played for from 1989-1993, selected DeOssie with in the fourth round. There was only one person in the world who was happier than DeOssie when his name flashed across the bottom of his television set.
“When he got drafted by the Giants, I was so happy for him,” Steve DeOssie said. “He was going somewhere that I knew was as good an organization as there was in the NFL.”
During DeOssie’s first two seasons with the Giants, he primarily saw action on special teams while also working spot duty as a long snapper. When Giants’ veteran Ryan Kuehl was injured in 2007, DeOssie took over as the punt snapper.
But his goal was always the same, he wanted to be an NFL linebacker. That was until a back injury turned his world upside down.
Following the 2008 season, DeOssie had a mico-discectomy on his back in order to help heal a herniated disc. Following the surgery, the Giants approached DeOssie with the team’s doctors and told him he could still play linebacker, but his career wouldn’t last nearly as long.
While DeOssie hadn’t seen any first-team reps at linebacker, he was progressing. Defensively, the game was slowing down and he felt he was making strides. He didn’t know what to do, so he called his dad.
“For a young man to give up his dream, it wasn’t a cut-and-dry situation,” Steve DeOssie said. “We talked about it a lot. He would talk, I would listen and the more he started talking the more he started to realize there’s more than one way to help a team win a game. “
The next season, Jay Alford tore his knee and DeOssie took over as the team’s field goal snapper as well.
“That’s when I said bye to linebacker and hello to long snapper full time,” DeOssie said.
A CHAMPIONSHIP SHARED
When DeOssie and the rest of his teammates were given their championship rings for their Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011, it added the second and third rings to the DeOssie family.
Steve DeOssie was a linebacker and long snapper for the Giants’ Super Bowl victory over the Buffalo Bills in 1990. When asked about the accomplishment and the fact both he and his son share rings from championships with the same team, Steve DeOssie’s voice immediately changed.
Steve talked about the times he and his son participate in charitable events together. Be it signings or just appearances, there will be several times throughout where both make eye contact. Nothing is said, but the two share a moment unlike many others.
“We’ll just catch a glance between each other and it’s just like… yeah,” Steve DeOssie said. “One of those inside moments where there’s just a smile or look and it’s almost unimaginable where you don’t know how to express it to somebody.”
A FAMILY MAN
Growing up in Massachusetts, DeOssie’s relationship with his dad wasn’t exactly what many would expect. Football was one of the least talked about topics in the DeOssie household.
When Zak DeOssie began playing pee-wee football, Steve DeOssie stayed back. He wasn’t the coach, wasn’t telling coaches his son should play or teaching fundamentals at the dinner table each night.
The way Steve DeOssie saw it, wherever path Zak’s life took him was fine with him. He didn’t care about Zak DeOssie’s sack total, just his grades.
“If his grades in high school started to sink,” Steve DeOssie said, “The first thing he’d have to give up was sports.”
When Steve DeOssie showed up to help Zak’s high school team learn to long snap, the dad recalls that as the first time he ever shared a field with his son. Now that Zak is a dad of his own – he and his wife Kate welcomed their first son three months ago – he plans to raise his child the same way.
“I’m gonna teach him whatever he wants to learn, just like my old man did,” DeOssie said. “He let me figure it out on my own and guided me along the way.”