- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOBOKEN, N.J. -- New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks can hardly wait for the lockout to end and the season to begin. Until this week, he has spent his offseason catching balls off a machine, training (he's added muscle) and even trying to help Jerry Reese with the draft.
Nicks spoke to Reese prior to the draft about his former North Carolina teammate Marvin Austin. In the second round, the Giants drafted the talented defensive tackle, who was kicked off the team and missed all of last season after being a part of an NCAA investigation into receiving improper benefits from an agent.
Austin also had been disciplined by the North Carolina coaching staff for violation of team rules.
In the end, the Giants said they did their research on Austin, including talking to Nicks, and believe Austin is well worth the risk.
"That's a good addition," Nicks said after the workout. "I think it is a good fit for him. I am sure he is going to fit right in and I know he is going to be ready to work."
The Giants believe they got a player that would have been drafted in the top 15 if not for the off-the-field issues. The 6-foot-2, 312-pound Austin was considered to be one of the top defensive tackles in college football prior to his suspension last year.
The off-the-field issues were the reason he dropped to the Giants at the 52nd overall pick.
Austin told reporters after he was drafted that he is not a bad person. The Giants concurred.
"He's definitely not," Nicks said. "He's a guy that just goes after it on the football game. He loves the game."
Austin said he was humbled by his one year away from football and the Giants are counting on him to arrive in New York motivated, inspired and with a chip on his shoulder.
"Oh yeah, he definitely has that," said Nicks, who played with Austin for two seasons (2007 and 2008).
Austin said Nicks was the first person to call him after the Giants picked the monster defensive tackle.
"Come up ready to work," Austin said of what Nicks told him. "His goal was to get me up there. Because he knows what kind of guy I am and he knows what kind of player I can be and bring to the organization."
Nicks has been working on his game and body in the offseason. He looks bigger and the wide receiver says he has been able to train harder this offseason after spending last offseason recuperating from toe and minor wrist surgery.
"I have put on a little bit more muscle weight," said Nicks, who has mostly been training in North Carolina until joining Eli Manning & Co. this week for workouts. "If you think back to last offseason, I had surgery so I didn't really get a chance to train like I wanted to. So a month after the season I got right back into it and have been training ever since."
On Wednesday, a handful of teammates caught passes from Manning and Rosenfels in the rain for about 45 minutes. Today, it was sunny but windy. Still, it has been great for Nicks to catch balls from Manning and interact with his fellow receivers.
"I feel like we are getting our timing back down," Nicks said. "It's our first week linking up a little bit, guys are trying to get back into the groove of things and get that connection back."
"I feel healthy," he added. "And I feel I can go right now if we needed to."
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