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Giants do whatever it
takes to land top-level corner
Round – Syracuse CB Will Allen
New York certainly got its man – well,
at least one of them. As the 2001 NFL Draft approached, the Giants had their sights
set on what they deemed the two best cornerbacks in the Draft. The fact that CB
was Big Blue’s biggest need just made their desire even stronger.
Ohio State’s Nate Clements was selected with the 21st pick by Buffalo, the Giants
knew they had only one move. If they wanted to land Syracuse’s Will Allen, the
other half of their pre-Draft dynamic duo, the Giants had to move up from their
original 30th overall pick – and fast.
Ernie Accorsi and Co., working the phone lines all day in an attempt to land either
Clements or Allen, acted fast, striking a deal with the Colts, possessors of the
22nd overall selection. The price was New York’s first-rounder, as well as the
Giants’ selections in the third (91st overall) and sixth rounds (No. 193).
“If you have a conviction on a guy and you have a need on a guy,” Head Coach Jim
Fassel said, “then it is time to move.”
According to Allen, the Giants were lucky that they did. “I really had a strong
feeling that New Orleans would take me with that next pick,” he admitted.
But the Giants, in what was the first time ever that Big Blue traded up in the
first round of the Draft, made sure Allen was gone before the Saints chose. New
Orleans then selected Mississippi RB Deuce McAllister, while CBs Willie Middlebrooks
(Minnesota) and Jamar Fletcher (Wisconsin) went shortly after, to the Broncos
at 24 and Dolphins at 26, respectively.
Middlebrooks was considered a medical risk after suffering a broken ankle late
last season, while Fred Smoot (Mississippi State), who dropped to the Redskins
in the middle of round two, was viewed as a character risk due to some recent
The Colts were only one of a bunch of clubs that Big
Blue was looking to work out a deal with, and also one of the least likely, according
“We really didn't try (to trade with the Colts when they were
on the clock) because we thought they wanted a corner,” said Accorsi, although
the Colts ended up selecting Miami WR Reggie Wayne at number 30. “Then we took
a shot at them and were able to do it. “I figured Clements would be the first
one picked and once he got picked we knew there was no way Allen would last 12
or 13 picks.”
Judging by Allen’s credentials, Accorsi surely was correct.
At 5-11, 192 pounds, the 22-year-old Allen was rated as one of the fastest cornerbacks
available and showed exceptional quickness and change-of-direction ability during
his career with the Orangemen. His fastest time in the 40-yard dash was an impressive
4.29 seconds. He’s also proven to be an excellent leaper who catches the ball
well. Even better for the Giants, Allen’s a solid kickoff returner.
real, real competitive player that will give my all on every play,” said Allen,
who was lying on the couch with his eyes closed when the Giants made him their
pick. “I’m expecting to contribute any way that I can.”
The Giants believe that Allen can contribute very early and very often. “I think
he can be an outstanding player,” Fassel said. “He is a man-to-man cover guy.
He can get on a guy, and he can cover him. He is good at the press, which we like
to do. He is a physical-type corner. He comes up to hit you, tackle you.”
Equally as important for the Giants and Fassel, Allen is “a solid person without
issues in any areas. He is what we were looking for.”
When asked if Allen could play right away, Fassel responded, “I sure hope so;
he can play inside in the nickel or outside on a guy” before issuing his annual
Draft warning. “Just because you’re a first-round pick, you’re not going to be
awarded anything,” the coach said.
Accorsi was equally thrilled. “We think
he is just a top-flight corner. He can tackle but most importantly, he can cover,”
Accorsi said. “We think his skills are going up.”
Allen finished his Syracuse career with 142 tackles (99 solo), four interceptions
and 39 deflected passes in 28 career starts. His 22.7-yard kickoff return average
made him even more desirable. “I could see him and [Ron] Dixon returning kicks
[next year],” Fassel said. And surely the Giants can see Allen pushing Dave Thomas
out of the starting line-up at left corner ASAP as well.
“He’s not going to
be handed anything,” Fassel said. “But yes, obviously, we think he can start.”
Allen’s other credits include making College Football News’ third-team All-American,
first-team All-Big East and being named a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award,
which is given to the nation’s best defensive back.
“He is an excellent man-to-man
cover guy, which is what everybody in the NFL wants,” said Steve Bush, who served
as Allen’s secondary coach last season. “He’s got a lot of confidence. He plays
aggressively. He is smart, a very smart football player. He’s got a lot of tools.”
Coming from Syracuse, which runs a very complex defensive system, also made Allen
attractive. “That’s one of the main reasons they traded up to get him,” SU Defensive
Coordinator Chris Rippon said. “He’s demonstrated his skills in a system that
is very similar to theirs.”
But Allen’s most desirable trait may be his foot-speed,
an area in which the Giants have targeted to upgrade in recent seasons. He’s been
labeled the fastest player to ever play football for the Orangemen. “You can’t
coach speed,” Director of Player Personnel Marv Sunderland said. “And he’s got
great speed. “He’s the total package and was near the top of everyone speed-wise.
Also, he can play zone [defense] and gives you [kick] return ability.”
While Allen has surprised many an opposing QB and receiver, he wasn't caught off-guard
by his invitation to come to the Big Apple.
was trying to keep it a secret,” he said. “My family kept asking me where I wanted
to go, if I had my choice. Everybody wants to go as early as possible, but I was
really hoping to go to the Giants. That way I wouldn't have to go that far away
from where I live, and I've been watching the Giants play for so long.” And the
confident Allen had no qualms about performing under the bright lights of the
Big City. “Everybody wants to play in a media market like this,” said Allen, who
mentioned Redskins corners Darrell Green, Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey as players
he emulates. “They’re either going to love you or hate you. It’s like being out
there on that island. You’re either going to get burned or make a play. That is
the life I live.”
field, Allen is a self-proclaimed family man who resides in Syracuse, NY. He’s
married and has a son, Will, Jr. Allen, who basically grew up with a single mom
(Carolyn), stated that he chose to attend Syracuse so that he could watch his
younger sisters grow up. In his earlier years, Allen, who lists Burger King Double
cheeseburgers as his favorite food, dabbled in the theater and also excelled in
gymnastics. However, football is his one true love. “I've been a cornerback ever
since Pop Warner,” he said. “I've been doing it my whole life.”
Now that his life is taking him to New York, Allen is clearly excited about coming
to the defending NFC Champions and joining an already solid defensive crew. “They
have to be pretty good; they made it to the Super Bowl. I think they are extremely
good, and I hope I can come in and make an impact “Maybe I’ll make such a positive
impact that we make it back to the Super Bowl.”
* * * Did you know...
Giants had not traded a first-round pick since 1975, when they sent it to Dallas
for QB Craig Morton? The Cowboys used that pick to select Randy White.
Giants traded with Washington to get a second opening-round pick in 1984, which
they spent on OL Williams Roberts? New York used its own pick that season on LB
…that the last time the Giants chose a corner in the first round
was Mark Haynes (Colorado) in 1980?
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