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USA Today Sports Media Group

Can Kayvon Thibodeaux just be allowed to play football now?

It was a surprise to some when the New York Giants selected Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux with the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Despite a litany of tape that absolutely showed his first-round talent, Thibodeaux had been shadowed by concerns in and around the league about his effort, about his ability to think about things other than football, and about the alleged limitations that would keep him from succeeding at the NFL level.

Thibodeaux had to deal with these questions at the scouting combine, and he answered them as best he could.

“I don’t think I need to convince teams of it, but that’s the media narrative,” Thibodeaux said when asked if he had to convince NFL teams that he loved the game. “There always has to be some narrative that’s drawn. For me, I’m an L.A. kid, and if you know the adversity I went through to get here, and the things that I had to sacrifice, and the things my mother had to sacrifice for me to be here, you’d really understand how I feel in my heart. When you talk about fire, when you talk about passion, I think you can’t really explain it. I get emotional thinking about it, because all the sacrifices it took for me to get here, I wouldn’t have made those sacrifices if I didn’t love the game. I’m blessed to be here, and I’m just happy that these teams want to talk to me, and they want to get to know me.”

On Friday, during his first rookie minicamp, Thibodeaux was asked about a story in which he thought about quitting football in the eighth grade.

“It wasn’t necessarily a quit,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was on the field and I quit. It was a conversation I had with my mom talking about I wanted to take a year off football and go play basketball. It was an idea for me because being a kid you see all these statistics and you see all of you guys creating narratives and creating frames on how hard it is to make it to the NFL. For me, I had doubt in my mind. And then I had to really dial back to my faith and realize that there’s going to be statistics with everything. It’s up to you to create your own legacy.”

Now, it’s up to Thibodeaux to create that legacy, and hopefully, it’ll be all about that. The tape shows that Thibodeaux has everything on the ball you want in a pass-rusher.