A little adversity sure wasn't going to slow Aaron Ross down. So what if he had to miss two years of…
Webster's Dictionary Definition of Playmaker
This coming season, the Giants envision Steve Smith filling that role, which is why they used their second-round pick on the productive receiver from USC.
"If they're going to take away 17 (Burress) and they're going to take away 80 (Shockey) you got to have somebody else," general manager Jerry Reese said. "Quarterbacks like these kind of guys."
The selection of Smith makes sense on several fronts. Reese admitted if Toomer – who turns 33 in September – were not coming off reconstructive knee surgery, the Giants likely would not have gone for a receiver so early in the draft. Also, last year's second-round pick, Miami receiver Sinorice Moss, proved nothing during an injury-riddled rookie year. Given Toomer's health risk – although he insists he will return to full health – Moss' inexperience and the trading away of disappointing Tim Carter to the Browns, Smith arrives to fill a void.
"He can beat you deep and he can cut his route off," said Aaron Ross, New York's first-round pick. "He's a great route-runner and he has the speed to beat you deep."
Like Ross, Smith had no idea the Giants were even interested.
"No I did not, not at all," he said. "I got a call from the Seahawks saying that they were going to pick me up and I was really happy that the Giants came before them."
Seattle traded out of the 24th pick, perhaps because the Giants snapped up Smith.
The 5-11, 195-pound Smith put up some lofty numbers at USC. He ranks fifth in school history with 190 receptions, fourth with 3,019 yards and sixth with 22 touchdowns.
"It doesn't look like he runs fast until someone's on him," former teammate Reggie Bush said of Smith.
In time, perhaps Smith takes the place of Toomer, the franchise leader in nearly every receiving category.
"Is he still there?" Smith wondered when asked about Toomer shortly after he was drafted. "I've seen him many times. He's a solid player."
Smith admitted he took some ribbing after the accidental Toomer diss.
"I was just so overwhelmed," he said. "My emotions were flying all over the place. Amani is this team's all-time leading pass-catcher. He's a great player and somebody I hope to learn a lot from in the future."
Reese said there were plenty of similarities between Toomer and his likely eventual replacement.
"They are similar in a lot of ways, I think," he said. "But I think this guy would probably run a little faster than Amani did when he came out. People see him as a possession-type receiver, but he does run fast. He plays fast. He carries his pads fast. He runs fast and he carries his pads fast."
At USC, Smith was overshadowed by the more-heralded Dwayne Jarrett but he put together some huge efforts for the Trojans, including a three-touchdown performance in the 2004 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The one blemish on Smith's résumé is a 2005 fight with teammate Dominique Byrd over money owed to Smith, who broke Byrd's jaw.
Smith said there was no animosity between Jarrett, who was selected only six slots earlier, and himself.
"Not quite," he said. "He was catching a lot of the touchdowns. You can't really be upset with all the winning we had. We won so many games and national titles; really that overrides all the individual notoriety."
Smith left nothing to the imagination during minicamp. He was a personal highlight reel, making the ordinary and extraordinary both seem routine.
"The acrobatic grab is what I do," he said.
The confident Smith said he isn't expecting anything to be handed to him.
"I just want to go out there and show the coaches that I have my motor on every game and that I have the energy to play every game 100 percent," he said. "This is a great opportunity with Eli and all these great receivers. We're definitely going to be throwing the ball. I just want to be one of the guys to step in."
As for his role, Smith just wants to be on the field. He knows – as do the poor, unfortunate souls that tried to cover him in college – that he can make plays from just about anywhere.
"If you look back, I'm making plays all over the field," he said. "I want to be a deep threat, inside guy, just wherever I can make plays. Just being able to go in the slot, go outside, do whatever I can to get on the field."
Wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan warned not to get fooled into thinking Smith is a one-dimensional receiver.
"I've heard that Steve has been labeled a possession receiver," he said. "I wouldn't think that's quite accurate, looking at the plays he made for USC and some of the things they tried to do with him. He would fit in a role where he could do things inside and do things in the slot, but also be an outside threat."
So, is he more of an inside or outside guy?
"It's hard to say. I think he can do both," Sullivan answered. "He's made plays in both. So that is one of the things that we are really excited about him, his versatility. We're going to try to see where that fits with us."
The Alaskan-born Smith, who moved to California as a youngster, is clearly looking forward to his new address.
"Definitely being in the Big Apple is exciting," he said.
Paul Schwartz contributed to this story.
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