Door's Open for Second TE spot

Photo: WESTERN OREGON ATHLETICS

Kevin Boss wasn't effective enough as a tight end at Philomath High School in Oregon to attract a single Division I-A or Division I-AA scholarship offer.

He already stood 6-6, so he towered above most residents in his tiny hometown of about 4,000. But Boss weighed only 200 pounds, and his frame seemed more suited for frontcourt success on the basketball court. So he headed to Division II Western Oregon University to play basketball and football, never even considering that an NFL career could become reachable within a couple years.

But he hit the weight room hard his red-shirt season, earned a starting spot the following year and by his red-shirt sophomore season started showing pro potential. Now that he has made the unlikely leap from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference to the NFC East, he has an opportunity to make an immediate impact with the Giants, too.

With Visanthe Shiancoe surprisingly wealthy in Minnesota and only practice-squad graduate Darcy Johnson noticeably standing in his way, Boss could become the team's No. 2 tight end behind Pro Bowler Jeremy Shockey as a rookie. He must develop into a better blocker, but the now 253-pound Boss demonstrated during the team's recently completed rookie minicamp that he has reliable hands and will quickly learn the Giants' offense.

"It just definitely makes me realize that I do have the opportunity to get on the field this year, if I work hard," Boss said. "That's something I want to do, whether it's on special teams or hopefully I'll work hard enough to earn that backup tight end position, and get on the field that way."

NFL personnel people have favorably compared Boss, the team's fifth-round pick, to Dave Casper, the sure-handed Oakland legend. The soft-spoken Boss put up some Shockey-like numbers against a lower level of opposition at Western Oregon, but is certain he'll have success against altogether superior athletes as well. While adjusting to the size and strength of NFL defenders, he'll rely heavily on Shockey, a player he has admired from afar since Shockey's days as a Miami Hurricane.

"I respect him a lot as a football player," Boss said, "how he plays real hard every Sunday, how he lays it all on the line. I'm looking forward to learning from him and being able to watch him every day in practice is just going to help me a lot."

Boss is also looking forward to working with tight ends coach Mike Pope, regarded league-wide as an elite teacher at the position.

"He showed his ability to catch the ball and run after the catch," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He will need some work on his blocking, but he is a physically gifted kid. And we think with some strength development he'll be a good blocker for us. … What we're counting on there is the natural ability."

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