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Julian Love on Eli Manning, being underdog, ‘grimy’ Giants defense

Fourth-year Giants safety Julian Love tackles some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What drives you?

A: I love this game. I love my family, I love my wife, but what drives me is just kind of my legacy on what I want to be remembered as. And that ties into not just how I play the game, but who I am as a person. I want to be remembered as how I made people feel. That’s why I feel like I’m respectful, I’m nice, I’m mild-mannered or whatever you say. But then tied into that is I want to have a legacy in football. I want to play a long time. I want to be considered one of the greatest to play. That’s a constant force in how I go about things.

Q: Eli Manning was “once a Giant, only a Giant.” Do you subscribe to that?

A: I do. I understand it’s a business, but I feel like I have the makings to be a Giant for life. I do everything that’s been preached here. I feel like when you think about what a Giant is, I think just naturally I have those morals, I have those characteristics. But at the end of the day, this is a business (chuckle), you can hope and all that stuff, but I’m not Eli Manning in the sense of I’m not a quarterback (laugh). DBs, you can hope to play somewhere as great as here as long as you can.

Q: What stood out to you about Eli when you were a rookie in 2019?

A: The night before every game, when guys have their pregame snack or pregame meal, guys sit down and talk to typically like their friends, their position group … and Eli would sit there, eat like whatever he was eating every night before the game, and he would allow rookies to sit with him. I thought that was like kind of crazy, because a lot of people treat rookies a certain way. Once I got comfortable with him, I would always just be asking him questions, about past teams, obviously the Super Bowls, and he was this open book, and so he would share stories very nonchalantly, like just kind of matter-of-fact. I just picture that so vividly.

Julian Love
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Pos

Q: What’s the best story he told you?

A: Obviously the ’07 team was a Super Bowl team. I remember his definition of it was the ’08 team was better, and they thought they had a real chance to repeat. And obviously things didn’t work out for them in the playoffs, some circumstances happened [Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg].

Q: Congratulations on being voted a team captain. I want you to talk about your nine fellow captains. Let’s start with Xavier McKinney: What makes him a captain?

A: He really stepped up this year to be just a really vocal leader for us. He’s a guy who wants to win, wants to change things around here. He’s giving the breakdown before games and all that stuff, he’s taking guys under his wing, and he’s just really been a guy who just pushes the envelope and try to make us better and holds us accountable.

Q: Saquon Barkley?

A: Saquon can bring out the fire in anybody. He’s a guy who’s super-competitive in anything he does. Right now this year he’s just been on a tear getting after guys and really helping us compete.

Q: Getting after guys in what way?

A: Talking a lot of s–t in and out of plays, the locker room, firing guys up to make plays, and so he’ll always challenge you that way.

Q: Does he challenge defensive guys?

A: Oh, yeah. Anybody can get it.

Q: You as well?

A: He’ll say: “Did you get the ball today? I didn’t see you out there. Were you practicing today?” as a joke, saying like you didn’t make a play today type of thing.

Q: What have you seen physically on the field from him?

A: As an athlete, he’s top tier in the league. He’s big, fast, strong. He is as he’s marketed.

Q: How much of a weapon can he be in the passing game?

A: I think that’s something that would be crucial tapping into. There’s a lot of other running backs in this league who have been used in that way, he should be up there as getting a lot of receptions out in space.

Q: Leonard Williams?

A: Leo’s probably one of the most loveable guys on the team. When he’s talking, you just listen. There’s not a guy who is in a dispute with him ever, and other than that, he’s just one of the best players on our team, and so that just makes him a great captain.

Q: Dexter Lawrence?

A: Same thing with Dex. He’s one of the best nose tackles in this league, really he’s been under the radar still for a lot of people.

Q: He’s kind of a quiet guy, right?

A: He’s more intimate I would say in the sense of he’s talking to guys individually … kind of how I am as a leader, I would say. He’s not a rah-rah guy, but when we’re getting after it and the pads get to hitting, he’s the main one doing the talking in that sense. He’s just a physical presence that when things get going, you want him in your corner.

Julian Love celebrates an interception last season for the Giants.

Q: Andrew Thomas, another quiet guy?

A: He leads in the sense of just being the right guy on and off the field. And at that left tackle you gotta lead that group.

Q: Daniel Jones?

A: He’s the hardest-working guy on the team. It’s easy to see why he’s a captain, because he’s in first and the last one to leave every day. Game-changer leader.

Q: How about his on-field leadership?

A: Through adversity, through the good, the bad, he’s constant. It’s easy to lead when you’re in a good time, but can you lead in a bad time? He’s always stepped up to the plate with the offense in that regard.

Q: Is he more vocal this year?

A: He’s always been pretty vocal, honestly. There’s such an urgency for a lot of the guys in my class ’cause this will be our fourth year. A sense of urgency like, “All right, we gotta get this thing going in the right direction,” so this camp has been really great for him I thought.

Q: Cam Brown?

A: He’s a guy on all four special teams units and has operated at a high level. The guys respect him and he’s taken a step forward this year to be a vocal guy for special teams.

Q: Casey Kreiter?

A: He’s the guy who’s watching all the film, especially on punt return. He’s seeing stuff that a lot of guys aren’t able to see ’cause he spends more time watching the special teams tape. It was an easy call for him I felt like to be captain of the teams ’cause he’s so knowledgeable in that regard.

Q: Graham Gano?

A: Graham is the O.G. on the team. I think he’s our oldest player. A guy who has his routine and does things the right way. I think a lot of guys in any position can look to him and see why he’s so constant, why he’s one of the best kickers in the league.

Q: Describe your on-field mentality.

A: It all stems from me just playing in my backyard as a kid. It’s the mentality of, “All right, I don’t care what the situation is, like make a play.” It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be gritty. I just reflect on kind of who I am as a person, who I am as a player. I feel like I play a tough, hard-nose game, with some finesse in there (smile).

Q: You’re a mild-mannered guy. Describe the transformation.

A: I always think about it as you don’t gotta be the nice guy, you’ve gotta be the good guy. And that means in my eyes, like, yeah I’m nice, I’m cordial off the field, that’s who I am as a person. I had a chip on my shoulder back in high school about not being a jock, like being a guy who’s well-rounded. And so I don’t have to be always the nice guy, the nice guy is a pushover, he can’t translate. … I try to be the good guy, the guy who is nice, but does the right thing when the right thing needs to be done. And that could mean set a physical edge, that could mean fill in the alley and saving a play, that could mean hitting a quarterback, laying somebody out … just physical things on the field.

Q: Fill in the blank: I have a chip on my shoulder because …

A: I have a chip on my shoulder because I’ve always felt in life that I’ve been the underdog somehow. Going back to college, when I was I felt like dominating at a certain point, people still were talking down at me or not giving me the respect I felt like I was earning. I was playing at a top level as a corner, I got here, I got shifted to safety, people kind of wrote me off early. It has remained, it hasn’t stopped, people still write me off to this day. And so that’s why I have a chip on my shoulder, ’cause I know no one’s giving me anything. That’s always been my fire.

Julian Love
Bill Kostroun/New York Postt

Q: Why do you think people are writing you off even today?

A: I don’t know what it could be. I always get the comments, “You’re not the best athlete in the world. You’re a smart football player.” For a good period in my life, I always took that as such an insult, like basically being a smart football player means that I’m not an athletic football player — which my whole life I’ve viewed myself as a well-rounded athlete, somebody who’s fast enough, strong enough, like sneaky strong, has a really good change of direction, and I think everything that I’ve shown has represented that. And also, a DB come out of Notre Dame as a corner, you don’t see that as much in recent years. I think if I did what I did at ND at an SEC school, things would be different (laugh).

Q: If you could cover any tight end in NFL history, who would it be?

A: So I’ve guarded Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], which was a great challenge, and I see why he’s a great player. That was a cool thing. … Let’s just go with a Giants legend: [Mark] Bavaro. I’d be curious of what those tight ends are compared to the ones I guard now.

Q: His nickname was Rambo.

A: Maybe I’ll change my mind, maybe not him (laugh).

Q: If you could intercept any quarterback in NFL history?

A: Roger Staubach.

Q: If you could face any running back in history in the open field?

A: The greatest player of all time for me — there’s two tied for first — Walter Payton. One of my favorite athletes in the entire world of all time. I also got No. 20 when I was a kid I wore all my life because of Barry Sanders, and so that’d be a fun one too, that’d be a really, really good challenge (laugh).

Q: If you could pick the brain of any safety in NFL history?

A: Ed Reed, easy choice.

Q: You were a Ravens fan?

A: I really appreciated Ray Lewis as a kid.

Q: What has been your most bitter defeat?

A: My last game of my college career was a loss [30-3] to Clemson in the playoffs. It was tough because I was in concussion protocol part of the second quarter, and during that time, they scored three touchdowns, and three deep balls [from Trevor Lawrence] to my backup, and so they knew I was out of the game obviously, they exploited that. I thought we matched up so well against them as a team … that just makes you wonder.

Q: What do you think of Serena Williams?

A: GOAT, legend, icon. Arguably the greatest athlete of all time.

Q: You think so?

A: She’s 40 years old. You have Tom Brady, you have LeBron [James] who’s getting up there as well who are considered GOATs, but to be a female doing that I think is different, because your body clock is different. You can go on, have a family like Tom Brady can have at 40, but as a woman whose trying to have a family, your body’s on the clock to do that, and so I think that’s what makes her special.

Q: Describe your wife Julia.

A: We’ve been together since high school. I asked her to my junior year homecoming, she was a class above me. We found out very soon how similar we were, in the right ways. We complement each other very well in ways that I’m lesser, she’s greater, and vice versa. It just has been an incredible story. She decided to go to St. Mary’s, which was an all-girls school across the street from Notre Dame. And then like a month or two later, I got offered to Notre Dame, which was my dream school, and so that helped us maintain through college. She’s my best friend. That’s my girl.

Julian Love is congratulated after an interception last season.
Getty Images

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Adam Sandler, Michael Jordan, Vince Vaughan.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Warrior.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Vince Vaughn.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Anne Hathaway.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: J. Cole.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Pizza. I’m still a kid at heart.

Q: Have you tackled Derrick Henry yet?

A: No, never played him.

Q: What challenge does that represent for you on Opening Day?

A: He’s just big and strong and fast. I consider myself a really good tackler in this league, really efficient, and so this’ll be a great test for me.

Q: Whatever comes to mind: Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale?

A: Aggression and golf. He knows how he wants to play defense, he doesn’t want to play on its heels, he wants to put the offense on their heels.

Q: The personality of this Giants defense?

A: It’ll be attack mindset. It’s gotta be kind of gritty and grimy, ’cause we gotta fight to take what we want in this league this year.

Q: Head coach Brian Daboll?

A: What comes to mind is just all the stuff he brings to the offense side of the ball, all the unusual formations, unusual motions. … You always were trained football should be one way, and he’s kind of opened the minds of a lot of people to understand like how it could differ and how the game’s changing and you could be innovative with it.

Q: So you think defensive coordinators might lose some sleep preparing for his offense?

A: Oh, without a doubt, yeah.

Q: Kayvon Thibodeaux?

A: He’s a very unique guy in a sense of you won’t find another guy like him. He is very fast off the ball, he’s big, he’s strong, and I think he’s gonna make a lot of plays for us.

Q: How’s he different?

A: He’s cultured, he probably has different interests, he can relate to anybody, he’s a funny guy. You wouldn’t expect that from a dominant edge rusher, you expect like a hard-nosed guy.

Q: Kadarius Toney?

A: He’s a quieter guy, for sure. I think when you understand him, you really appreciate who he is.

Q: What’s unique about his skill set?

A: He’s just one of the quickest in like has one of the fastest twitches I’ve seen in this league.

Q: How does his quickness differ from Wan’Dale Robinson’s?

A: Wan’Dale is sometimes like he’s fired out of a cannon almost. … He’s hauling across the field, he’s making some nice cuts, he’s a good route-runner in that sense. And then KT, after he catches the ball, that’s when the game really starts for you, because he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Q: Is this team ready to win the division?

A: I do think that this team is ready to win the division, yes. I think we have all the talent to win the division, honestly. And it’s a matter of 1) keeping guys healthy and going, and 2) just meshing, finding our identity early in the season, and then winning those tight games that we’ve been in so many times these past few years.

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