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Travis Toivonen hopes unique journey ends with Giants’ roster spot

Toivonen has overcome several obstacles to get his NFL opportunity

New York Giants Mandatory Minicamp
Travis Toivonen during minicamp.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Travis Toivonen is a wide receiver for the New York Giants, something you might not know unless you are a devoted follower who is always up to date on the team’s entire roster.

Toivonen, who comes with an underdog story we will get to shortly, joined the Giants’ practice squad in the middle of last season. Let’s discuss his chances as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 212
Age: 24
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: 1
Contract: One-year, $708,500 | Guaranteed: $3,500 2022 cap hit: $708,500

Career to date

Toivonen told his story to the 33rd Team. You can read it there if you like. He also told his story to Big Blue View on a recent episode of the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. Give that a listen below.

Or, you can just let me summarize for you.

Toivonen had one college scholarship offer to play football, from North Dakota, an FCS school. He took it and played there from 2016-2019. He caught 139 passes for 1,719 yards in those four years, including a career-best 48 as a senior for 684 yards.

“I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted,” Toivonen told me on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. “I wanted to give it a shot. It’s always been my dream to play in the NFL.”

COVID-19 wrecked his 2020 opportunity to hold a Pro Day or work out for NFL scouts in hopes of getting a contract as an undrafted free agent.

“I had no chance. At that point I knew 2020 wasn’t going to be the year for me and I kinda had to make that decision. Am I just going to move on with my life, get a different job or am I gonna kind of play it out for another year and hopefully give myself a chance next year to have a Pro Day.

“I ended up choosing the second of those two options.”

He played in the Fan Controlled Football League, a 7-on-7 league where fans called the plays.

“I was pretty much looking for any opportunity knowing that the NFL wasn’t going to be an option that season,” Toivonen said. “We were practicing every day, which I think the biggest part for me was to keep playing football and stay active.”

He eventually got to work out at the 2021 Minnesota Pro Day.

Toivonen ended up getting an opportunity last season with the Seattle Seahawks, who cut him when they trimmed their roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players.

“Once I got to Seattle and I was going against those defensive backs I knew I wasn’t out of place,” Toivonen said. “I knew I belonged, I was good enough to be an NFL receiver. I belong here.”

He still had to wait for the phone to ring again. Shortly after being cut by Seattle he worked out for the Giants, the only team to call him. He signed with the team’s practice squad in mid-October and earned a reserve/futures contract to return this season.

2022 outlook

Toivonen would have to be considered a massive underdog on a roster filled with players who have much higher pedigrees. Still, he has gotten this far.

Toivonen is hopeful that the Giants having a new coaching staff, and this being the first time he has been with a team since the beginning of an offseason program, will give him a better chance.

He said the new staff is “a fresh look” and that “it’s pretty encouraging to be able to learn the playbook alongside everyone else. Knowing they were willing to keep me and give me a chance is obviously very encouraging. It definitely gives me an equal opportunity as opposed to playing catch-up.”

Toivonen did get a lot of opportunities in the spring with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard not practicing and Collin Johnson working in limited fashion.

“That’s kind of the name of the game in football,” Toivonen said. “It’s always that next man up where there’s going to be injuries. That’s just the fact of the sport. You’ve just got to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I was able to get a lot of reps, first- and second-team during the offseason. It gave me a lot of experience, gave me a lot of reps with different quarterbacks. I’d definitely say it was beneficial.”

Let’s see if he can turn that opportunity into something. Best guess here is that a return to the practice squad would be a good outcome for Toivonen.