Xavier McKinney began laughing with delight as Tomon Fox walked toward him on his way out of the Giants fieldhouse after practice.
“Oh yeah, he’s a helluva player. … it’s crazy ’cause the hit that he had this last game was crazy … it was the best play so far of the preseason!” McKinney told The Post.
Fox is an rookie undrafted free agent outside linebacker from Lawrence Taylor’s University of North Carolina, where he surpassed LT’s career sack record (30-21) to finish behind only Greg Ellis (32.5) and Julius Peppers (30.5).
Fox became a viral sensation when he resembled a heat-seeking missile — or LT, in other words — closing furiously in the flat on wide receiver Trenton Irwin to force a fumble in the closing seconds of the Giants’ 25-22 win over the Bengals that had a woman in the MetLife stands, who the Twitterverse assumed was his mother, going apoplectic with joy: “That’s my baby!”
It turns out, it wasn’t his mother.
“That’s my brother’s mom,” Fox said.
Fox saw her after the game.
“She told me, ‘Yeah, there was a guy like behind me with a camera filming or something like that,’ ” Fox said. “I didn’t think nothing of it, and I seen it online and everybody thinks that’s my parents, I was like, ‘Ah, man [laugh].’ I was like, ‘Nah, that’s my brother’s mom, but I still love the support and everything.’ ”
Fox saw the video the next day when someone sent it to him. His Giants teammates watched the play on the Jumbotron and were thrilled for him that night and the next day.
“Everybody said, ‘Oh man, you saw your parents out there, that’s awesome,’ ” Fox said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s not my parents but it was awesome [laugh].’ ”
Fox’s parents were in Lawrenceville, Ga.
“After the game I checked my phone, my dad was probably one of the first people to text me, telling that was a great play and things like that, and started talking about actual ball I need to work on and things like that,” Fox said, and added: “He’s basically like my coach,” then laughed.
Of course he spoke to his mom.
“She was proud of me. She’s always proud of me,” Fox said. “She’s coming here this weekend. She doesn’t get to come to my games too often. I have little sisters at home — and now they’re watching my dogs, too, so I need somebody [laugh].”
Fox is 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, with a locker next to Kayvon Thibodeaux. On Sunday against the Jets, he very well may need the game of his life, following the play of his life, on defense and on special teams, to survive the moment-of-truth cutdown to 53.
Reliving the play of his life, Fox said: “It was weird at first, but then once I seen it was like a screen I said, ‘I can just trigger and go,’ so that made it much easier for me instead of having to wait, potentially cover somebody.”
Had Fox ever had a chance like that to trigger and go in such a way that Carl Banks, on radio, remarked that it looked as if he had come off the sideline somewhere?
“Not in a game, only in practice one time in college they put me at corner for fun and let me blitz,” Fox said, and laughed. “It was an awesome experience.”
He doesn’t think he’ll lose sleep Monday night.
“I know I’m gonna put my best foot forward and I’m just gonna leave everything else in God’s hands,” Fox said, “so I should sleep fine [chuckle].”
Fox spent six seasons at UNC because of changes to eligibility rules during the pandemic. Taylor trash-talked him, over surpassing his sack record, in the weight-room before one game last season.
“I played against him a lot when he was at Carolina and I was at Duke, so I remembered him from then,” Daniel Jones told The Post. “He’s a good football player.”
What did Jones remember about him?
“Just he was fast, aggressive. Coming off the edge he was someone you thought about in pass protection, and making sure we took care of him. I think he’s just a really solid football player,” Jones said.
Nothing personal that it’s a Carolina guy rushing a Duke guy at practice?
“I never lost to Carolina, so it’s not too bad-blood between us two,” Jones said, and laughed.