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Thursday, September 15, 2011
Brandon 'Stoked' to join Giants

By Ian Begley

Brandon Stokley used to catch balls from Eli Manning back when the Giants quarterback was in high school.

Fast forward more than a decade later, and Stokley is hoping to catch on as Eli's third receiver.

The Giants signed Stokley, a 13-year veteran, on Thursday to compete for their slot receiver position.

Neither Domenik Hixon nor Victor Cruz impressed in that role last Sunday, so it is very much an open contest.

"There’s more competition and that’s a good thing," Tom Coughlin said. Stokley couldn't agree more.

Stokley, 35, was at his best with Peyton Manning in 2004, when he totaled 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Colts. Giants fans may remember him as the little Baltimore Ravens wideout who torched their team for three catches and a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV.

Last season, Stokley caught 31 balls for 354 yards in 11 games with the Seahawks, including 12 for 158 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games.

So he was a bit stunned when he didn't get much interest from teams in the offseason. He did have a potential deal fall through with the Redskins.

But, other than that, nothing.

He thought at one point that his career may be finished.

"I just wasn't given the opportunity, for whatever reason," Stokley said. "I don't know why. I thought I proved last year, especially at the end of the season, that I could still play."

The Giants saw enough from Stokley in a workout on Wednesday that they decided to take a chance. NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora reported that the Giants worked out T.J. Houshmandzadeh and former Jet David Clowney along with Stokley.

"He worked out very well," Coughlin said. "We know his past, his record, the way he’s played in the league. We think he can be an excellent addition to our slot performers."

The slot is a spot the Giants have tried to fill since Steve Smith decided to sign with Philadelphia in an acrimonious offseason departure. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride hopes Stokley can help fill the void.

"I think he will bring something to the table that we are looking forward to having and what we were really in need of since Steve Smith's injury (last December)," Gilbride said.

Stokley should feel pretty comfortable catching passes from Manning. In the late 1990s, Stokley attended the famed Manning Passing Academy as a counselor. It was there that he first hauled in balls from a young Eli.

"You could tell back then that he was going to be a special quarterback and I think he's proven that," Stokley said.

Now Stokley wants to prove he can still play in the NFL. And, if all goes well in practice this week, he'll get his first chance to do so on Monday night against the St. Louis Rams.

Said Stokley: "That's all I was looking for, was a chance. And I got the opportunity and I'm just looking forward to it."