McAtamney 'had a feeling' Giants move would happen

Jude McAtamney of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is congratulated by team-mate Adam Korsak Image source, Getty Images
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Jude McAtamney played college football for Rutgers University in New Jersey

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For former Derry Under-20s gaelic footballer Jude McAtamney, his potentially life-changing dream of signing for NFL side the New York Giants has become a reality.

Following the NFL draft last week - where the game's best college prospects are selected by the league's 32 franchises - McAtamney has signed with the four-time Super Bowl winners as a free agent.

The kicker, who won an Ulster Under-20s title with Derry, will now compete with Scottish-born Graham Gano for a roster spot.

"We verbally agreed on Saturday, it was nice to have that clarity," McAtamney told BBC Sport NI.

"The amount of feedback the Giants gave me since the day I worked out with them, I would maybe have been surprised if they wouldn't have taken me. I had a good feeling it was going to happen.

"It was a long day but the longer the day went on the more likely that I was going to get picked up. It was about 6:30 US time and I got a call to say: 'Look, the offer's there, if you want to take it take it.' So me and my agent, we jumped on it.

"From the interactions we had before if we were to pick a team [to be with] it would have been the Giants."

'I can't believe I said that'

McAtamney played two college seasons for Rutgers University who, like the Giants, are based in New Jersey.

He is following in the footsteps of former Down GAA goalkeeper Charlie Smyth, who last month penned a deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Wexford punter Dan Whelan made his debut for the Green Bay Packers last season, becoming the first Irish-born player in the NFL for 38 years.

"Charlie reached out and said congrats so that was nice. It's cool to have another Irish person on an NFL team," said McAtamney.

"Also Dan. He played last year so it's good to know that it's possible."

The Swatragh clubman also recalls a social media exchange he had with David Shanahan, the first Irishman to receive a full scholarship to play American College Football, in May 2020.

Shanahan reposted the message on social media on Sunday in which McAtamney had said: "Well done on your scholarship! I'm a keen kicker of the ball myself and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to approach the guys at Prokick Australia? Thanks."

Remembering the message, McAtamney added: "It seems kind of cringey now. He sent me it the other day and I burst out laughing, thinking 'I can’t believe I said that'. It was funny looking back and thinking how far we have both come since then."

Image source, Inpho
Image caption,

Charlie Smyth recently signed a deal with the New Orleans Saints

'You don't want to be driven by the money'

McAtamney will report for duty with the Giants on 9 May, then take part in a three-day rookie mini-camp before staying around the facility until mid-June, training every week.

The potentially lucrative financial rewards on offer for kickers range from a reputed $200,000 minimum for their initial involvement up to $800,000 if selected for the playing squad.

He says that will not be his primary motivation however.

"You get a small guarantee but after that everything is earned. You have to keep your spot in the team. They could get rid of you at any second," he explained.

"If you concentrate on the money you get too far ahead of yourself, it's important to keep your head down and just focus on kicking well. The money side will take care of itself further down the line.

"You don't want to be driven by the money, get caught up in that side of things, as they could call me next week and say, 'No, we've changed our mind'. You can't think too far ahead."

"The end goal would be to look back on my career and say I've had a 10 year or 15 year career kicking in the NFL. That's the best case scenario."