Carl Banks had the opportunity to get to know Kayvon Thibodeaux prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, and he gives a thumbs-up to a player and a big personality he believes has a chance to make a big impact on the field and in the locker room for the Giants… and for New York.
“They need his energy anyway. I wouldn’t want a locker room full of mousey-type guys. Be who you are. The mousey personalities marching to the same beat … express yourself. Be who you are,” Banks, the legendary Giants linebacker, told The Post.
“This sports market could use it, to be honest with you. New York sports market doesn’t even have a dynamic personality. You got a bunch of whiners, and underachievers. So give me somebody who’s dynamic, who can live up to the billing, and we are yet to know what that is. But this market could use it.
“Good sports and good personalities is good for business. … He’s good for business in a general sense — for your business, for fan enthusiasm, he’s just good. Great personalities are always good for business. I don’t know what he is until he gets on a football field. He’s a dynamic skill set and his personality is great, and if that all comes together, he’ll be great for business.”
Banks met in person with Thibodeaux and was excited when general manager Joe Schoen made him the fifth pick for a Giants team that is desperate for its next feared pass rusher
“Very conversational … intellectually curious … great sense of self-awareness … high level of self-love … understands football … understands what’s important about football,” Banks said of Thibodeaux.
“I think the one thing that really sold me on him is just how he understands the process of playing the game and how being available and being a closer in the fourth quarter spoke volumes. Because he knows that those are important times of the game. To have that understanding at a young age just how you can impact a game … it’s impressive.
“You don’t hear a lot of players talk about that. You don’t hear a lot of people talk about the importance of that, right? To be able to even articulate that in understanding how he sets up a game, how he plays a game in his head, and he sets it up from first to fourth quarter. From a football mind, a football IQ, to hear someone talk like that, to articulate that, and to understand what he does in the first quarter could set up something that he wants to do in the fourth quarter … his processing of football is impressive.”
Banks, of course, had a bird’s-eye view, for nearly a decade, of how Lawrence Taylor terrorized quarterbacks.
“The mark of a great pass rusher is their ability to close the game,” Banks said. “I say it with the utmost respect to the greatest defensive player ever, Lawrence Taylor, but Bruce Smith was the greatest closer I’ve ever seen.”
Banks gushes about what he saw on film of Thibodeaux playing for Oregon: “Explosive. He’s just a dynamic football player. He’s just not another guy when he’s on the field. He’s enjoyable to watch.”
Thibodeaux will be welcomed with open arms by new Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
“Wink is an attacker,” Banks said. “He’s gonna be really good for him.”
Banks is confident new head coach Brian Daboll can handle an outsized personality such as Thibodeaux’s.
“Daboll’s no shrinking violet now,” Banks said and laughed. “He can relate. He’s not old either, you know.”
The multifaceted Banks, founder of G-III Sports and G-III 4 Her sports apparel, likes that Michael Strahan is a mentor for Thibodeaux.
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“Awesome,” Banks said. “Because Strahan’s another very dynamic personality. Strahan managed his media relationships a little differently than a lot of other players. And kinda did things the way they needed to be done. The thing with Strahan is football was important to him, but he was also a person who, when you look at his résumé, has other interests.
“Every athlete talks about their brand now. What they should understand and what they should really research are successful brand collaborations. Because basically they’re in a collaboration right now. Their brand is not as strong without the brand that they play for. They can build their brand while helping the brand they play for become successful. That’s a successful collaboration. Successful brand collaborations are mutually beneficial.”
To an outsider, Thibodeaux seems wise beyond his 21 years.
“He’s been able to absorb the world that he’s in,” Banks said. “He’s just not confined mentally to the football space or the Eugene, Oregon, space. He’s an issues-oriented person … wants to learn more about things that he doesn’t know about, which I think is pretty awesome. And that holds true for football. He’s a football player, let’s not lose sight of that, but I just think the makeup of him is so much more complex — not in a bad way. You’re gonna know what he’s thinking most of the time. He’s diverse, in his interests and his thought process.”
I asked Banks what he meant when he mentioned Thibodeaux having this high level of self-love.
“He loves him some him,” Banks said.”He’s a very self-confident man, which is great.”
I asked him where he thinks that comes from.
“Well, he’s an only child, so if you’re an only child you’ve gotta make friends sometimes,” Banks said with a chuckle, “they gotta forge relationships.”
Thibodeaux seems determined to put whatever misconceptions have been written and whispered about him — regarding his love of football and his motor — in the rearview mirror. None of that matters now. His play on the field as a New York Football Giant is all that matters now.
“I thought that he would be a great addition to the Giants defense,” Banks said. “He’s an impact-type player.”
He is dead on: The Giants, and New York sports, sure need one.