EAST RUTHERRFORD, N.J. – The New York Giants have a history of giving second chances to talented players who have problems off the field.
The Giants did it again Friday night, when they selected North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin in the second round of the draft.
Austin was considered among the top interior linemen after his junior season, but he was suspended and eventually dismissed from the Tar Heels this past season for accepting illegal gifts from an agent.
"You got back and look at his tape as a junior and you see a really good football player," general manager Jerry Reese said. "Again, we had him very highly rated. This guy is going to be a tremendous player for us."
New York (10-6) also went for value in the first round, ignoring a perceived need on the offensive line to take cornerback Prince Amukamara of Nebraska with the 19th choice. The team finally addressed a need in the third round Friday, when it took Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan.
Reese said the Giants did a lot of homework on Austin and believe he made one major mistake. His resume also shows he was suspended for the final two games of the 2008 season for being late for a class.
"This guy can get off the ball with tremendous speed," Reese said. "He's got a nasty motor, a mean demeanor about him. He is going to bring that nasty attitude."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin spoke with Austin prior to the selection and warned him that the team will not tolerate any more problems from the 6-foot-2, 309-pounder.
"He wants the opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who added that when Austin is sharp and focused he is a very good football player.
Austin said sitting out last season motivated him. He spent time in Florida working on his game, developing balance and improving his explosiveness off the ball.
"I like to play violent, and being a defensive lineman that's what you have to do," Austin said.
While he refused to say whether he felt he was a first-round pick, he said he believes he is one of the best athletes in the draft.
"It was extremely tough to sit back and watch and not be able to play and compete with my teammates," Austin said. "I learned that every decision you make is an important decision, and you have to think everything out. Also not being able to play football, it makes you grateful for the game. It makes you appreciate the game."
The year away from football has left Austin healthy, well rested and little more respectful.
"Given my situation, it was a humbling experience, you know, to go from being one of the top players in the country to going to a guy who nobody wanted to talk about," Austin said. "It was extremely humbling and I learned that hard work will pay off. That's what I am going to do when I get to the facility, bust my tail."
Austin started 25 of 38 games at North Carolina, finishing with 106 tackles, nine sacks and 14 pressures. He was suspended indefinitely before the Tar Heels' season opener and eventually dismissed from the team on Oct. 11.
"Some of the things that are said and the way people say them, I feel like some people feel I am a bad person or something like that, and that's not the case at all," Austin said. "I am just a good guy who made a bad decision."
The choice of Jernigan addresses needs at wide receiver and in the return game.
A three-time, first-team All-Sun Belt selection, the 5-foot-9 Jernigan had 84 catches for 822 yards and six touchdowns this season. He also added 322 yards and three touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns in the return game, one on a punt return and another on a kickoff.
"He's a little guy but he is extremely fast," said Marc Ross, the Giants director of college scouting.
The Giants are concerned about the receiver spot because Steve Smith suffered a major knee injury last season. New York also had little in the return game last season after losing Domenik Hixon to a knee injury during an offseason minicamp.
The Giants will have four rounds on Saturday to address the needs on the offensive line, linebacker and running back.