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Small man, big dream: Can Donte Deayon make it with the Giants?

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There really is no recent precedent for a 5-foot-9, 158-pound cornerback in the NFL. Deayon is trying to break the mold.

Donte Deayon at Boise State
Donte Deayon at Boise State
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants undrafted free agent cornerback Donte Deayon is a small man, an incredibly small one for an NFL player at 5-foot-9, 158 pounds. Sit with him for a few minutes, though, and you find he has a big, engaging smile and a big personality. His collegiate coach at Boise State, Bryan Harsin, will also tell you that Deayon has a big heart and plays a big game.

"There's not a guy that I've been around with a bigger heart that plays and makes plays. He's a guy that's very talented. There might be some physical limitations, according to some people, but the guy plays big," Harsin told Big Blue Kickoff Live. "He plays the size you want him to and he does it consistently and he's got extreme confidence when he goes out there to play and absolutely loves this game.

"He's a hard guy to not want to be around or to not have on your team because he brings so many things to the table when it comes to the game of football."

Let's learn more about Deayon, who spent a few minutes with me recently after the team's first OTA, as we continue to profile the players who will comprise the 90-man roster the Giants bring to training camp later this summer.

2015 Season in Review

Deayon had four interceptions for Boise State, finishing his career with 17. He had seven passes defensed, finishing career with 25. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss and returned 16 punts, averaging only 3.3 yards per return.

[Audio: Listen to the full interview with Deayon]

2016 Season Outlook

Deayon, obviously, went undrafted. He wasn't surprised.

"I had a lot of production in college, high school. Even coming out of high school it seemed like a lot of colleges shunned me a little bit ‘cause of size," Deayon said. "That's a big thing for people to take a risk. They feel they don't know if they want to take that risk."

The story of how Deayon ended up with the Giants is reminiscent of how defensive back Mykkele Thompson came to the team a year ago. Recall that Thompson, selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, said the Giants were the only team that had shown interest in him and he initially seemed surprised the Giants used a draft pick on him.

Deayon had just one pre-draft 30-man visit -- to the Giants, of course. Although he had feelers at the conclusion of the draft from other teams, he knew before the last name had been called that he wanted to join the Giants.

"Early in the process they were showing a lot of interest," Deayon said. "That stood out to me. They said they recognized the talent ... it showed they had a lot of interest in me.

"Once it got toward the end I already knew where I wanted to be."

The question is, can Deayon actually stick with the Giants? There is no denying the Giants need cornerback depth, and that there is a place on the roster for a true slot corner. The Giants will likely use first-round pick Eli Apple there quite a bit. Trevin Wade played there extensively a year ago, with mixed results. Wade, though, shouldn't be considered a lock to make the team. If he sticks, Deayon will do so as a slot corner.

"Yes definitely, I do. I really do," Deayon said when asked if he thought he had a realistic shot at making the team. "I know it's not gonna be easy, it's never gonna come easy, but I'm willing to put in the work and the time to make sure I try to secure a roster spot.

"There's nobody my size that's doing it, now I've got the chance to be a standard."

Study buddies

Safety Darian Thompson, selected in the third round, and Deayon were teammates and good friends at Boise State. Thompson is often lauded for his film study and preparation, something that helped him intercept 19 passes for the Broncos during his career.  Thompson's study buddy at Boise State? Often, that was Deayon.

"We put countless hours in watching film, We take pride in knowing the opponent because it's gonna give you an edge," Deayon said. "You're not just going to go into every battle just "OK, I'm bigger, stronger and faster than this guy" so that's gonna get me over the hump. So, really taking pride in studying and watching the film and applying it on the field."

Breaking it down

Deayon said there is a method to watching film properly, and that he will watch available film from his upcoming opponent at least three times in its entirety. Once simply for formations and team tendencies. Once for receiver alignments and splits. Once for tells from receivers. Do they do something different when they expect to get the ball? When they know they aren't involved in the play?

"I take pride in it now. This is your job. What else am I going to spend my time on?" Deayon said. "I'd rather spend it trying to get better and being better on the field. This is something that I have to do to be better on the field."

A plan to make plays

Being in the right place at the right time on the football field is often a lot more than plain old luck. Harsin said the end result of Deayon's preparation is an ability to quickly read and react. Not to mention that he's fearless despite his size disadvantage.

"Here's a guy that would see things on the field, would see a bubble screen and would be able to come off that receiver trying to block him and go make a negative yardage tackle. ...He loves to be physical. He is not going to shy away from that, he will tackle you, he will do everything he can to go and not just tackle you but bring you down."

Deayon knows that many of his 17 career interceptions at Boise were the result of the work he put in before stepping on the field.

"I see a formation that they run certain routes out of and they only do it out of that formation. That's when I'll put the pedal to the metal and I anticipate it," Deayon said.

Final thoughts

Can an undrafted player of Deayon's diminutive stature actually make it in a league where some receiver will have six or seven inches and 60 to 70 pounds on him, and even the smaller ones will be a couple of inches and probably 30 or so pounds bigger? Pardon the pun, but it will be a tall order for Deayon to make it out of training camp and onto the roster.

After meeting him and learning more about story it is obvious, though, that should he fall short it won't be because of lack of preparation or effort.