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HomeSportsGiants’ Georgia connection reunites Andrew Thomas, Azeez Ojulari

Giants’ Georgia connection reunites Andrew Thomas, Azeez Ojulari


Imagine sitting with your buddy on his big night, waiting with him and knowing that sometime soon, one of 32 NFL teams will give him a call with the alert that he is their newest draft pick.

You wonder along with him where he might be headed. A reunion in the NFL, after playing together in college, is just a fleeting afterthought.

“We talked about it,” Andrew Thomas, an offensive tackle from Georgia who was selected by the Giants with the No. 4-overall pick in the 2020 draft, said from fellow Bulldog Azeez Ojulari’s draft party in Smyrna, Ga. “But when it really comes true, it’s always a different feeling.”

After Olujari, an outside linebacker, slid out of the first round, casual conversion turned into reality. The Giants, after trading down from No. 42 to No. 50 in the second round, gleefully scooped up Ojulari, considered to be one of the best pass rushers — if not the best — in the entire draft.

“When he got drafted, we thought about it,” Ojulari said. “It could happen one day. So, we were like, ‘It would be cool for us to be teammates coming from Georgia. That would be nice.’ And look at us now: teammates.”

Look at them now.

Ojulari and Thomas were more than college teammates. They were roommates.

“I’m excited for him,” Thomas said. “We got a great player, he works hard. I’m excited. He’s definitely going to help our team.”

The two knocked heads in practice. Ojulari said Thomas is the toughest offensive tackle he has ever faced, but smiled and added “definitely’’ when asked if he got the better of him.

Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
AP

“Every single day, good on good, every day,’’ Ojulari said.

Ojulari had 8.5 sacks this past season for the Bulldogs. The Giants scouted him extensively. Thomas knows him better than almost anyone, as far as what he can do on the field for a defense.

“I think he has all the intangibles, like he’s fast, he’s strong, has good weight,” said Thomas, who struggled in the first half of his rookie season before showing considerable improvement. “But personally, the thing that I feel makes him different from other guys is his heart and how he plays the game. Azeez, he’ll run through a brick wall for his teammates. That’s how he plays the game.’’

The Giants have a thing about players from Georgia. They have taken one from that school in the first three rounds in four consecutive drafts — linebacker Lorenzo Carter, cornerback DeAndre Baker, Thomas and now Ojulari. They also selected Tae Crowder, a Georgia linebacker, with the final pick of the 2020 draft. Baker was a bust and is no longer with the Giants.

Head coach Joe Judge, for three years, worked with Georgia coach Kirby Smart when the two were together on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. There is something to the Giants-Georgia connection. But, Judge said not to read too much into it.

“Well, I think the coincidence would be that he just coaches really good players,’’ Judge said. “They do a great job of recruiting top talent and [developing] them over the course of [the] time they are there. Those players work hard and play hard and understand the value of playing old school, fundamental, physical football. That’s really what draws to us.

“Me and Kirby, we worked three years at Alabama. I have a lot of respect for him as a person, and I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. When you know where someone is coming from, you have a little bit of insight in how you can coach them; OK, what really makes them tick and how they respond in adverse situations.’’

Thomas, a year ahead of Ojulari at Georgia, called his new Giants teammate “not super outgoing, but if you get to know him, he’s a real chill dude. He’s funny.’’

Ojulari knows he will see familiar faces when he arrives for work with the Giants.

“It’s just great just having my brothers up there already,’’ he said. “They’ve been there, so they can teach me and tell me things. So, I just can’t wait to get up there with those guys and be ready to work.”



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