New York Giants: Jesse Armstead
By Michael Stewart
In the spring of 1993, the NFL draft was held and the New York Giants had a total of 7 draft picks without the luxury of a 1st round pick. We all know that with their 1st selection in the 2nd round chose DE Michael Strahan. However; in the 7th round (204 overall pick) the Giants selected an undersized linebacker out of the University of Miami by the name of Jesse Armstead.
Not much was made of the selection of Armstead as the young linebacker played in all 16 games as a rookie. Armstead steadily improved over the next few seasons and had his breakout year in 1997 when he made the 1st of his 5 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1997-2001). Only Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor made the Pro Bowl more times at the linebacker position in Giants history. Armstead made All Pro honors 4 straight seasons (1997-2000) as well while never missing a game.
Oddly enough, all of the fame and awards that Armstead achieved throughout his football career (college and the NFL) might have never happened. In high school, Armstead’s fellow recruiters & friends Derric Evans and Gary Edwards had asked him to join them one night; which was to be a series of robberies. Unaware to Armstead who in the past would go everywhere with them, uncharacteristically declined.
They were best friends, Armstead would later describe Edwards and Evans, but something inside of me didn’t feel comfortable going with them that night. Armstead’s refusal turned out to be the turning point of his life as Evans and Edwards were arrested for armed robbery which affected both of their lives. .
“It was the turning point in my life,” Armstead would later say. “I think about it all the time. I could have gone on with them. I went with them everywhere else. I made a choice.” Armstead went on to college and won 2 National Championships with Miami and then drafted by the Giants in the 7 round mostly because he suffered a ACL injury to his knee as a sophomore.
Historically; the Giants have had a pipeline of talent at the linebacker position and for me Armstead ranks at #5 all-time (only behind Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Sam Huff and Brad Van Pelt) based on personal accomplishments. Rounding off the bottom 5 on my list would be Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, Antonio Pierce, Brian Kelly, Gary Reasons. My list might attract some debate among all time Giant fans, but whoever you have in your top 10, number #98 should be among them.