New York Giants wide receiver Austin Mack smiled when he was asked about wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert recently saying Mack was his group’s “enforcer in the run game.”
What does that mean to Mack?
“It’s [run blocking] extremely important. That’s the role I was given when I had the opportunity to be able to be a part of this team. I’m going to do it to the best of my ability,” Mack said. “Something that Coach [Urban] Meyer told me back at Ohio State was you can’t play receiver until you play special teams, until you block for your running backs. That’s the same mindset I think I live by and trying to have that identity.”
Mack, 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, has emerged as a contributor from a group of young, undrafted practice squad receivers that includes Derrick Dillon, Alex Bachman and Mack’s college teammate, Binjimen Victor.
“He’s definitely a scrappy dude. One thing about Austin, and I’ve kind of told him this directly, ‘look man, you’re the kind of guy that hangs around a lot. You make plays and you do things. You block for us, you make tough catches. You’re going to help us in the kicking game at different times.’ He just keeps showing up,” said head coach Joe Judge. “He’s a guy that at times he may not flash all the time but does something that just jumps out at you. He just keeps making play after play and he shows up on a regular basis.”
Judge lauded the 23-year-old’s intelligence.
“For a young player, this guy is a smart player, he’s an instinctive player. He’s a guy that Tyke (Tolbert) can take at any point in practice and if someone needs to come out for a rep, he just throws him in that position. It doesn’t matter what it is. He knows everything on the field. He’s very aware of what’s going on around him,” Judge said. “He understands what his strengths are, he understands what he needs to improve on as a rookie. I think Jason (Garrett) has done a really good job incorporating him into the game plan. This guy has earned everything he’s gotten so far. He keeps coming to work every day and giving us reasons to put him on the field.”
Mack was never the No. 1 receiving option at Ohio State, catching 24, 26 and 27 passes in his final three seasons with the Buckeyes. Perhaps that, and his willingness to take Meyer’s words to heart, helped him do the work to earn the promotion from the practice squad.
“More than anything, I think my mindset was you’re not given anything right now. You have to go earn respect, the opportunity to even be here. That was just my mentality,” Mack said. “I didn’t care that I went to Ohio State, it doesn’t matter in the NFL. Everybody comes from all different divisions. It’s just a matter of coming out here and proving yourself, your worth, and your value to the team. That’s been my whole mindset moving forward.”
In our preseason profile of Mack, Gene Ross of SB Nation’s Land Grant Holy Land, provided us with what has turned out to be an incredibly accurate assessment of the young wide receiver. Here is part of it:
“Mack could certainly make the team as a backup receiver, and if he does it will be because of his hands and his smarts ... Between his hands, his route-running, and his intelligence, Mack has a real shot at cracking the roster. ...
“Overall, I think Mack does a lot of things well that the Giants organization will really like, and if he can finally put it all together, he could become a secret weapon in New York. Out of the trio of undrafted free agent receivers the team picked up this offseason, which includes Mack’s college teammate Binjimen Victor and LSU’s Derrick Dillon, I believe Mack has the best chance of cracking the roster ... he could easily become a reliable option in the rotation right from Year 1.”
Mack was elevated from the practice squad for one game early in the season, but did not play. He was signed to the 53-man roster when the Giants waived Damion Ratley prior to their Week 6 game vs. Washington.
“It’s been a grind. I’ve been really focused and knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Mack said. “At the end of the day, just come in, work hard, put my head down and just wait for an opportunity. Whenever there was an opportunity to just try and maximize and keep competing each and every day.
“I just do what I can to make sure that I make the opportunities. That I am open on film. If the ball comes my way, I just make the play. If that makes sense.”
Mack has five catches thus far, four of them last week with Golden Tate inactive for disciplinary reasons. This week, Tate is questionable with a knee issue. Thus, Mack may get another opportunity.
What we know about the young man is that he will do everything he can to make the most of it.