2006-08-25 / Sports

For Kiwanuka, A Good Week For Football and ABad One For Baseball

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - No matter what he does on the playing field, this will not be a good week for Giants first round pick Mathias Kiwanuka.

The Boston College product is a self professed member of Red Sox Nation and endures teasing from fans and teammates because of his allegiance.

"Wearing the Red Sox hat, I get it everyday going into practice," Kiwanuka said last week before the Boston Massacre this weekend. "But it's all in good fun."

Let's see how much fun he is having now that the Yankees swept the five game series. Fortunately though, Kiwanuka's play on the field may be his saving grace. Last week in the Giants 17-0 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the 23 year-old impressed with two tackles, an assist and a sack with a forced fumble. He moved well off snap and put good pressure on the quarterback.

"I am still trying to work on a few things," Kiwanuka said. "I think consistency right now is the best thing I could do. I missed two assignments, but I made big plays. That feels good, but it's only part of the game."

Coach Tom Coughlin saw progress. "He was very aggressive and very physical, as he was last week. He was close to the passer a number of times." Kiwanuka said he received a lift from being at Giants Stadium. Though not full house, the crowd was very loud and behind Big Blue all game. "Emotionally it was a lot different from last week," he explained. "This was my first game at Giants Stadium, so I don't know if the crowd is always like that and energizes us. For me, I felt it out there."

Still the rookie has a ways to go. He has a new playbook to learn, but he said there are less distractions than college.

Kiwanuka added: "For any rookie that comes in and there is a huge playbook in front of you. But the more reps I get, I feel more comfortable. Coming from the college to the pros, its much faster. It's the more reps you get."

The playing time will come as the young lineman continues to learn his position. He is getting help from veterans like Michael Strahan whom one day Kiwanuka may replace.

But that's all in the future as Kiwanuka is just concentrating on playing the Jets this week.

And, of course, deflecting all the abuse he will take from Yankee fans.

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