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Learning two positions as a rookie? For Julian Love, it’s part of the job

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His ability to do that is one of the things that attracted the Giants to him

NFL: MAR 03 Scouting Combine
Julian Love
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Julian Love came out of the locker room to chat with a writer, he was wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses that made the New York Giants rookie cornerback look like a kid you would find in the corner of a college library with a pile of books in front of him.

Perhaps, then, it isn’t really a surprise that when asked about Love both head coach Pat Shurmur and defensive backs coach Everett Withers gave an answer that involved Love’s intelligence. They also both used a phrase — “spatial awareness” — I can’t ever recall a coach using to describe a football player. At least not in my 12 years covering the Giants.

Here’s Shurmur:

“The one thing about Julian is he’s got good spatial awareness. The game sort of makes sense to him. That’s why he can play at top down. The safety thing is not unnatural for him. His skillset fits the nickel spot, so that’s sort of where we played him. He certainly can play outside as well. But he’s a smart, instinctive player. We’ll keep trying to give him what we can and see where his best spot will be.”

Here’s Withers:

“He’s done really well. He’s a sharp kid, he has a lot of spatial awareness, he understands football, (and he has) a really good football IQ. We kind of told him again in the rookie portion of training camp that we were going to give him some reps at safety more, and he embraced it and he’s done well. I think he’s done well at both spots.”

The Giants wasted no time introducing Love to the free safety position, giving him some reps there back in rookie mini-camp. That has continued throughout the spring and into training camp.

“It’s definitely a lot, but I like to take steps back and just realize what’s in front of me,” Love said. “Instead of having to do school and football my life, my job is to study this stuff. That’s what makes it much easier.”

What the Giants hope is in front of the 21-year-old, 5-foot-11, 195-pound Love is a long, successful career with the Giants. Whether that is in the slot, working on the outside, or patrolling the deep middle as a free safety.

Love was an All-American at Notre Dame and entered the draft expected to be selected on Day 2, in the second or third round. The Giants felt fortunate to get Love in the fourth round, 108th overall. Remember GM Dave Gettleman telling SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was “pacing the floor” waiting for the Giants’ turn, hoping no one else would select him.

“We were shocked he was there. We were thrilled, obviously. He was sticking out on our board like a sore thumb,” Gettleman said. “He’s a complete defensive back. He’s got all the movement. He’s got the ability to carry the vertical and he plays the nickel. And he tackles — there’s a crazy concept, tackling.”

Love is competing with Grant Haley for the slot cornerback job. He is learning free safety with the help of 14-year veteran Antoine Bethea. He agreed that it’s a compliment that the Giants are asking him to learn multiple positions.

“I’m showing that I can be reliable in multiple spots, multiple places,” Love said. “At the end of the day you want to be able to be dependable more than anything. This process has been that for me.”

He credited veteran assistance as well as his own ability and willingness to learn with being able to handle the heavy load of learning two very different positions as a rookie.

“When you have veterans in front of you that assist you, that aren’t very standoff-ish, that helps the growing process,” Love said. “Since I was young I picked up on things quicker in terms of football. Just going to try to utilize that now.”

Love hasn’t played safety since high school. Considered by talent evaluators prior to the draft to be a player who had tremendous ball skills and intelligence, but perhaps a player just a tad slow to be a shut down guy in man-to-man coverage, Love is self-aware enough to understand why the Giants are trying him out at safety.

“Some traits I have I think are better suited for safety than corner,” Love said. “Obviously safety at this level is really different than safety in high school. I’m really directing and communicating more. That’s my goal every day is to communicate and be outspoken.”

Love, a fairly soft spoken guy who doesn’t seem like he has a “take charge” personality, said “I do” when I asked him if he likes the leadership aspect of playing free safety, where he sees everything in front of him and is responsible for aligning the defensive backs.

“I think I’ve always been a natural born leader by example. This really forces you to be an outspoken leader, somebody who communicates and directs people,” Love said. “That gives people reassurance, that calms people down, make people feel less anxious about the next play. I’m just trying to do my part and grow in that aspect.”

The Giants are hoping Love grows into a key player for them for years to come.