ALBANY, N.Y. -- Dwayne Hendricks was too big to play Pop Warner football in seventh grade. The Giants defensive tackle was about five pounds over the weight limit, and as much as he wanted to be a player like his big brother Damien, he just didn’t want to lose the weight necessary to get on the field.
And that may be the last time Hendricks opted out of hard work when it came to football.
“I have the utmost respect for that kid,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “That kid worked his ever-loving off. In fact I use him as an example.”
The Giants have waived Hendricks four times. That’s four times that he’s gone back to his mother’s house in Millville, N.J. Four times he’s hit the gym harder than he thought possible -- working with his old high school team while confident that another shot was going to come his way.
“It’s all about perseverance,” Hendricks said. "I look at a lot of people’s stories around the league, like (former Giant and current Raiders defensive end) Dave Tollefson. He told me he got cut and he wasn’t even playing football for two years.”
This is the training camp when Hendricks' time may finally come. After spending the bulk of the 2011 season on the practice squad, Hendricks is hearing effusive praise from his coaches, including the notoriously tight-lipped Coughlin.
“I’ve told anybody that goes against Dwayne Hendricks -- he’s going full-speed every play,” Coughlin said. “So if you’re foolish enough to think that he’s not going to make you look bad, you’re ridiculous. So he goes out and plays the game just like he practices. He did very well for himself.”
It’s all fitting together for Hendricks. He is catching the coaching staff’s eye, and some injuries -- both Shaun Rogers and Marvin Austin are hurt -- could result in some playing time. Even if that wasn’t the way he wanted to get it.
“You never want to see somebody go down like that, it’s never a good thing,” Hendricks said. “You play this game because you want to compete and be the best and not be given something by default.”
The Giants are looking to bring in another veteran defensive tackle. As it stands, Chris Canty could be on the PUP list to start the season with a knee injury. Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph are healthy, but Rogers (blood clot) is out for the year and Austin’s results from a trip to the Hospital for Special Surgery are not yet in.
On the last day of Giants camp in Albany, Hendricks worked with both the second- and third-team defense.
After playing for the University of Miami, Hendricks was signed as a rookie free agent on May 9, 2009. Since that day, he’s been waived four times and, between practice and regular rosters, signed nine times.
When he was home in 2010, not sure whether his football career was over, Hendricks volunteered to help coach defense at his old high school. Head coach Jason Durham said Hendricks had always been one of the most popular people at the school -- not just because he was a football player, but because he was a good student as well.
Hendricks maintains relationships with his former teachers, and Durham laughed while saying that Hendricks couldn’t get in and out of the school in less than an hour with all the people he stops to talk to.
“He’s very personable and very patient,” Durham said. “Some athletes have a hard time explaining things to young players, but that wasn’t the case with Dwayne.”
Clearly patience has been key for Hendricks, ever since watching his brother Damien -- seven years his senior -- and wanting to be a part of the game he played. The patience and hard work is finally coming to fruition. Damien played four years as a lineman at Temple, but didn't go on to the NFL. Now Dwayne is making that dream come true for both of them.
“All the things that he told me and advice that he’s given me, it’s paying off,” Hendricks said.