He hadn’t gone for his stitches yet, gauze covered the blood on his chin, and when the doors to the Giants locker room opened, he was seated at his locker reading a text from his girlfriend.
“She asked me if I was OK, ’cause she saw the mark on my chin,” Austin Calitro told The Post. “And then — ‘When are you coming out here?’ No sympathy whatsoever.”
Calitro laughed at the end of a day when he reached out and appeared to touch a dream that he has forever been chasing.
Many of them, Giants and Jets alike, will be bracing for Cutdown Tuesday, the cruelest day of the summer, the day that shatters dreams.
Calitro has never stopped clinging to his New York Giants Linebacker Dream from his childhood days at Danbury (Conn.) High and then at Villanova. And even after too much heartache and heartbreak as an undrafted free agent, even now at age 28, he doggedly and desperately stalks a place to call home after four vagabond years and nine NFL homes.
And on this do-or-die Sunday when the Jets scrubs overcame the Giants scrubs 31-27, Calitro, the ultimate journeyman, made his very loudest statement, shouted his urgent plea from his MetLife Stadium field of dreams to the top of 1925 Giants Drive:
I can help you, Wink Martindale.
I can help you, New York Football Giants.
You say you are looking for smart, tough and dependable … well, here I am. You saw my 35-yard pick-six of Joe Flacco, didn’t you? My fumble recovery? My fourth-and-1 stop?
“Tough, dependable, smart,” Brian Daboll said. “He’s really been a good addition for us at that spot.”
Calitro is a 6-foot, 227-pound middle linebacker, and he sure has a mentality that would bring a smile to the face of Dick Butkus.
“I kept it silent, everybody saw my chin and saw it was bleeding,” Calitro said. “There was a bunch of blood on my jersey.”
Quincy Roche, at the next locker, asked Calitro: “You think you look better or worse with the cut on your chin?”
“It depends who you ask, I like the fact it looks a little tougher,” Calitro said, and smiled.
He doesn’t remember how it happened.
“I remember it burned a little but at one point, and then I came off the sideline, everyone was looking at me like I was a little crazy,” Calitro said. “I asked ’em what’s going on, they said, ‘You’re leaking from your chin.’ And then the trainers pulled me aside and had to do a little on-field procedure, I guess.”
The pick-six was his second interception of the preseason. Joe Flacco rolled right and was pressured by Oshane Ximines.
“As soon as I saw him, I felt the receiver behind me so I just fell back a little bit,” Calitro said. “I don’t think [Flacco] saw me right away.”
Count Ximines as a member of the growing Austin Calitro Fan Club.
“Oh he balled out today, man,” Ximines said. “He’s a guy that came in and worked since the first day he got here, got a lot of respect for him.”
As does Leonard Williams.
“I like Calitro, he plays with some good energy, and I feel like he’s gonna be a good ballplayer for us,” Williams said. “He does good things on special teams and on defense. I definitely like him, and hope that he earns a spot on the team.”
Calitro showed his playbook study on the fourth-and-1 stop. “We called a certain front, and then I had the option to kinda check ’em into another front and I did,” he said.
His first NFL team was the Jets. He lasted 10 days. “One of the coaches pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to go to fullback, and I pretty much said no,” Calitro said.
Look at him now. After 47 games of NFL experience. During a journey he never wants to end. Now he waits. Again.
“It’s kinda out of your control at this point,” he said. “Try the best you can not to think about it too much. Where the chips fall they fall, fell, and whatever happens after that happens.”
I asked him what it is like wearing No. 59 for the New York Giants. “When you put it like that it’s a childhood dream come true,” he said. He finished with this: “I’m hoping I stay.”
Austin Calitro belongs.