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Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux opens up in wide-ranging interview

Top Giants draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, taken with the fifth-overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday, huddles with Post columnists Steve Serby for some Q&A. 

Q: Describe your on-field mentality. 

A: Relentless … poise … strategic. 

Q: Poise? 

A: I never get too high, I never get too low. I always tell people once I stop laughing and joking, I stop smiling, then I’m nervous (smile). As long as I continue to be upbeat and I’m enjoying it, I’m fine. 

Q: What can Giants fans expect from you in the fourth quarter? 

A: I just want them to know that I’m gonna play until the last … until the lady sings. I’m gonna play until the game’s over. And when the fourth quarter comes, and the game’s on the line, I’m gonna leave it all out there. 

Q: What did you mean by strategic? 

A: That speaks more to the fourth quarter. Because the game is about longevity, you gotta do certain moves and do certain things to set up other things for later in the game. … Trying to be a master of situations. … Fourth quarter is where in college I use to really put the moves together. 

Q: When the best is required, you’re at your best? 

A: I never shy away from big moments. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux (middle) with Giants general manager Joe Schoen (left) and coach Brian Daboll (right).
Kayvon Thibodeaux (middle) with Giants general manager Joe Schoen (left) and coach Brian Daboll (right).
Robert Sabo for the NY POST

Q: What will it sound like or feel like to you when Giants fans are chanting, “Dee-fense, dee-fense, dee-fense”? 

A: Before every game starts, I always look up and I try to find my mom. Once I find her, then I can hear her (smile). I probably can’t really hear her, but mentally, I can hear her. And when I’m in MetLife Stadium, I feel like it’s gonna be the same thing. She’s gonna be there, I’m gonna be able to hear, and it’s time. And I’m gonna know that God’s gonna give me that power to go do what He empowered me to do. 

Q: Sacks or sex? What’s better? 

A: Sacks. … You can only do it at a certain point in time. Once I put this helmet down, I’ll never be able to get a sack again. 

Q: Who is one quarterback you’re looking forward to sack? 

A: Quarterbacks are nameless, faceless characters that … I just gotta go get ’em. Whoever has that ball in their hand and they’re looking … they’re not looking at me … I want to get ’em. 

Q: What would you tell NFL quarterbacks about Kayvon? 

A: Sleep on me. Don’t think about me. I’m not that good. 

Q: What have you heard about Lawrence Taylor? 

A: He’s the greatest of all time. I’ve just heard the stories of him being relentless. … I heard he’s a guy who they came up with roughing the passer and everything based off him. He was that guy who created roughing the passer. 

Q: What do you know about your mentor, Michael Strahan? 

A: He’s one of the greatest pass rushers of all time, and he really looks at this as an art. 

Q: What’s the biggest thing he’s told you about the art of pass rushing? 

A: You have to be intentional. You cannot go out there and think that you’re just gonna do whatever pops up. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux
The Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux with the No. 5 pick in the NFL Draft.
Robert Sabo for the NY POST

Q: What drives you? 

A: My competitive spirit. For me, football feels like war. So being on that football field, I take it serious. I’m not comparing it to war, that’s life and death, but it is ’cause if you’re not on your toes on the field, you can seriously get injured. So, just knowing that I gotta be on point at all times. … I have a hard time losing. When I know I can be better, I want to be. I feel like my mom is the person who always instilled that where, if you know you can get an A, why would you get a B? Never drop your standard, so … I dream big, and I just continue to try to keep going forward. 

Q: How big did you dream? 

A: (Smile) I mean, I dreamed I was gonna be in the NFL one day and now I’m here. That’s probably the biggest dream I had. 

Q: What was a criticism you felt was the most unfair or has bothered you the most? 

A: I would say just the love for the game. I feel like that’s something that no one can measure. … You can’t measure the size of someone’s heart. So for that narrative to be thrown out there, it was just kind of like just finding anything to say. That’s about it. 

Q: What kind of an impact do you think you can make as a rookie? 

A: I don’t know yet. I want to carve out my role on this team. I just got the playbook, so I gotta dive into that. But I know one thing — I’m gonna push that envelope, I’m gonna help challenge people, I’m gonna be competitive. 

Q: Can you be as a leader as a rookie? 

A: Yes, I feel like you can be a leader. I feel like once you learn how to articulate yourself in any form of communication, you can lead. Whether verbal or non-verbal, whether old or young. … You can lead from the back, too. You don’t have to lead from the front. I don’t have to show you that I’m doing it to be getting it done. 

Q: What adjectives would you use to describe yourself off the field? 

A: Gregarious … compassionate … intentional and spiritual. 

Kayvon Thibodeau celebrates after being drafted.
Kayvon Thibodeaux celebrates after being drafted.
Getty Images

Q: What inspirational or motivational sayings are meaningful to you? 

A: Be somebody. That’s something my mentor [Antonio Patterson] always used to tell me. He got me into football. This one wasn’t really a motivator, but it really helped me through my life, right? He said, “You’re always gonna be the biggest guy in the room, so people are already gonna be looking at you. They’re just waiting to see what’s gonna come out of your mouth. So make sure it’s powerful.” 

Q: If you could pick the brain of any defensive players in NFL history, other than Strahan, who would it be? 

A: Ed Reed. I was a big fan of Baltimore when I was young, and I’ve seen the things that he did on the field. I saw this one video when he talked about his process of thinking like using a quarterback’s tendencies, and they were showing an interception that he got when he basically pump-faked the quarterback when the quarterback pump-faked him, then he was able to get the interception, it was crazy. 

Q: Why were you a Baltimore fan? 

A: My grandmother’s a big Baltimore fan. The first real game I sat and watched was that Super Bowl [XLVII] versus the 49ers. … She loved Ray Lewis. He’s a guy who I look up to and I kind of see some of myself in him. 

Q: In what way? 

A: Just in the way of leadership, confidence and belief in his teammates and peers. 

Q: What is the worst thing you saw in South Central L.A.? 

A: Poverty, the lack of resources, lack of education, lack of hope. I think lack of hope is probably the worst thing you could see. 

Q: How did you overcome that? 

A: I had tunnel vision. I think my mom did a great job expanding my horizon, being in different areas, seeing what the world had to offer, and then I was able to see what I really wanted for myself. 

Q: Keyshawn Johnson is from South Central L.A. Do you know him? 

A: I’ve never met him personally, but I hear all the stories in the world about him. 

Q: He came to New York with a big personality, too. How do you feel when people say Kayvon’s got a big personality? 

A: It’s subjective. I feel like people are entitled to say whatever they want to. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux at Oregon.
Kayvon Thibodeaux at Oregon.
Getty Images

Q: Do you think you have a big personality? 

A: I don’t know if I can describe it as big, but I’m very gregarious. 

Q: What are you most proud of about yourself? 

A: That I was able to graduate college in three years, and make my mom proud. 

Q: What was your major? 

A: Journalism. 

Q: Why journalism? 

A: Coming out of high school, at first it was law. I realized that I had to stay in college to be a lawyer, and it wasn’t as fun as I thought. But then realizing that I had to understand media, I had to understand framing, I had to understand everything that I was gonna go through so that I could see it from your perspective. 

Q: You met Nike co-founder Phil Knight at an Oregon spring game? 

A: I saw him and I said, “Man, that’s Phil Knight, I gotta go say something to him.” 

Q: What did you say to him? 

A: I said, “Phil Knight, how you doing? My name is Kayvon, I’m a recruit right now. One day you’re gonna be making my shoe.” 

Q: You’ve got confidence. 

A: You got to. Closed mouths don’t get fed (smile). I said that to him before I was in school, and then, once the last game came, he shook my hand, he said, “I can’t wait to see you playing in the Nike shoe.” So for me it was a full circle moment. I can only rejoice it. 

Q: Do you think you’re a good judge of character? 

A: I call it the power of the sermon. I feel like I can tell people’s hearts on if our hearts align. I’m not perfect, but I can see when somebody has a pure heart or at least our hearts align. Just being able to kind of keep good people around you, kinda keep family around you, that’s the most important part. 

Q: You don’t seem like the typical 21-year-old kid. 

A: It’s subjective. 

Q: What do you think? 

A: I feel like as young adults, as human beings, once you start to be able to think outside of that simulation, you really start to live. I’m just now starting to cultivate my outside thinking. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux poses on the red carpet ahead of the NFL Draft.
Kayvon Thibodeaux poses on the red carpet ahead of the NFL Draft.
USA TODAY Sports

Q: Give me and example of you being an outside-the-box thinker. 

A: I think I was the first college football player to have his own cryptocurrency. And that’s just a testament to trying something new. I was one of the first few to get on that NFT wave, and to come out the biggest people possible. 

Q: What was it like being an only child? 

A: It was lonely a little bit, but you find out who you are and you find out what you like to do, so for me, it was easy to pick up chess, it was easy to pick up a book, and it was easy to really focus on what ***** my ***** dream was. 

Q: You like to lead with the queen in chess. 

A: I’m aggressive. I like to challenge you, and that’s the same way I am with football, I like to put you under pressure so then I can force you to make mistakes. 

Q: Tell me about your mother, Shawnta. 

A: She is the backbone of my life. Giving me the information I need to grow, and then believing in me as a man, and not being too much of a helicopter parent, but letting me experience the world and see it for what it is. 

Q: Helicopter parent? 

A: She could have held me back and withheld information, she could have sheltered me, but she gave it to me in bits, so that I could understand because I was 5-[foot]-11 in fifth grade and I had to walk to school. It was different, you had to be aware, you had to be mature, so she helped me develop that maturity so that I’ll be able to conduct myself on my own. 

Q: Why did you have to walk to school? 

A: She was working and didn’t have a car. I started walking to school in second grade, it was like six blocks. It wasn’t until high school when I started taking transportation. And then, around 10th grade I got a car and then I started driving myself. I saved up, and my granny helped me out and it was dope. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux and his mother Shawnta hold up his Giants jersey.
Kayvon Thibodeaux and his mother Shawnta hold up his Giants jersey.
Robert Sabo for the NY POST

Q: Tell me about your dad, Angelo. 

A: Great guy. He ended up getting remarried, but he was a worker. He led by example. One thing he always told me, he said, “I’m gonna give you the tools, but you gotta build your own house.” 

Q: What will you buy with your signing bonus? 

A: The greatest part, we had NIL [name, image and likeness right in the NCAA], so I don’t feel that urge to hurry up and buy something, but it’ll probably be once I move out here, get settled in. 

Q: How much did you make with NIL? 

A: A nice amount. A nice amount (smile). 

Q: What are your impressions of new Giants coach Brian Daboll? 

A: He don’t take no s–t and I love it (smile). I mean, no B.S. He’s straight, he’s black and white. He’s like [former Oregon head coach] Mario Cristobal was when I first got to college. For me, that’s how I like to function. 

Q: What did he say that made you think that? 

A: I like to shuck and jive, so first thing he said was, “Stop kissin’ ass.” (laugh). And it was only funny to me ’cause that’s so far from what I do. I like that, that’s real, you want real stuff, we don’t want fake, we don’t want used car salesmen. We want real. 

Q: Wink Martindale, your defensive coordinator? 

A: He’s a man with the master plan. He has a way of going about it, and I’m just ready to buy into that culture. 

Q: What interested you in crypto? 

A: The future. I feel like with the way media works and the way that the Internet and everything is rapidly growing, the world is evolving, and I feel like crypto’s the future. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Getty Images

Q: Three dinner guests? 

A: World Wide Wes [William Wesley], Jay-Z, [Barack] Obama. 

Q: How do you know World Wide Wes? 

A: I’m a Nike boy (smile). There’s a connection there and I know he’s [and exec for] the Knicks. … I’ve always been a fan of New York. So once I kind of got in the process I started just asking questions and figuring out who was who. … He’s a man with the master plan. 

Q: A fan of New York? 

A: Yes. Not the Knicks. I am a fan now. I love the Knicks now. 

Q: A fan of New York in what way? 

A: You know, for me, I always watched the movies. I’m from L.A., so it was like that’s the other big city in this whole world. So just hearing about it. … When I first got here, I’m like, ‘Wow, every building is a skyscraper, every building is multiple stories. I’ve been to Brooklyn, I’ve been to The Bronx, I’ve been to Manhattan, I’ve been to Jersey, so now it’s like I really got a feel for it. 

Q: Favorite movie? 

A: “New Jack City.” 

Q: Favorite actor? 

A: Eddie Murphy. 

Q: Favorite actress? 

A: Zoe Saldana. 

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer? 

A: Dave Chappelle. 

Q: Favorite meal? 

A: Pasta. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux (left) and Roger Goodell (right).
Kayvon Thibodeaux (left) and Roger Goodell (right).
USA TODAY Sports

Q: How are you going to deal with being one of New York’s most eligible bachelors? 

A: I just gotta stick to the script. I’m gonna keep learning. I’m gonna have good people around me. I’m gonna make sure that I continue to represent myself the right way. And represent the New York Giants the right way. 

Q: You seem very comfortable in your own skin. 

A: At the end of the day, I think the only thing you really leave behind is the impression that you had on people. So if I can just keep that consistent, and by the time my eulogy happens, if everybody’s saying the same thing, then I lived a good life. 

Q: What do you want them to say? 

A: I affected them for the better, and that every day I came in and I gave everybody everything I had. 

Q: What do you want Giants fans to say about you as a football player one day? 

A: That I was the most relentless, electric … best teammate that I could be. 

Q: You aspire to be great? 

A: I wouldn’t even be in this profession if I didn’t want to be great. 

Q: What would you want your legacy to be? 

A: I just want to impact as many people as I can. I just want kids after me to look up and say that they can achieve whatever they want because they believe it. 

Q: A message to Giants fans? 

A: I’m gonna embrace you guys, I’m gonna give you guys everything I got, hopefully you embrace me for my differences, hopefully you just get to know me. Before you make any preconceived notions on me, just get to know me. Come find out, if you see me, come talk to me.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/30/giants-kayvon-thibodeaux-opens-up-in-wide-ranging-interview/ Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux opens up in wide-ranging interview

JOE HERNANDEZ

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