Nine-year defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka talked about his role on the Giants this upcoming season as both a player and a leader as well as what he learned from former Giant defensive end Michael Strahan, who will be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.
Q: Considering the roster overturn that’s been going on the last three years, and especially this year, how much of an extra leadership role do you have to take to indicate to the newcomers what the Giants team is about?
A: Being in these halls for a long time, you get the sense that everybody who comes in, they longer they stay, the more that they understand it. Having a lot of new guys around here, there is an increased role, in terms of letting people know about the history, it’s not just a mystique thing from the outside; it’s a true way we approach the game and we approach life. Myself, and a lot of other guys who have been here, have taken the lead on going out there and showing people how to work. The majority of the guys we have brought here, I’d say 99% of them, are workers. They understand how to play the game.
Q: With Tuck gone, how do you expect your role to change?
A: I think there’s a lot of different pieces, so everybody’s working to figure out where we’re going to be. The difference in my approach to the game is with pass rushing. I’ll be out there as a defensive lineman the majority of the time, if they ask me to do something else, I’ll do it, but from what we’ve seen here during this camp, it’s just rushing the pass.
Q: What’s the first thing you think of when you remember Michael Strahan?
A: He was just fun, he genuinely enjoyed the game. He always had a joke. There was an age gap, but he always found a way to fit in. He always had that infectious smile and approach to the game like ‘You know what, this is a great day to be out here, I enjoy it, I love it,’ and he really did. That was one of the first things that stuck with me. He wasn’t disgruntled…as soon as he showed up, the pads were on, and he was ready to go.
Q: Are there things that you do on the field or off the field that you know you got from him?
A: The one thing I will say, I remember him telling me that he’ll never take himself off the field. That’s one thing that stuck with me. I think maybe in my career, there has been a couple of times because obviously if you are hurt, you have to let someone go in there, but I remember him specifically saying ‘That’s just a chance for somebody to take your spot. I am never going to come off the field. They’re going to have to drag me off the field’ I feel like that is how you have to be. You have to have that mentality of a warrior, somebody’s who is going to be out there and be accountable.