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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In his official introduction as a New York Giant, Prince Amukamara chuckled at the first question he received.
"How does it feel to be a prince coming to New York?" a reporter asked.
Amukamara, surely used to all sorts of questions surrounding his first name, smiled.
"Sounds like 'Coming to America,'" Amukamara said.
Like in the classic Eddie Murphy comedy, Amukamara arrives in New York as a descendant of a royal bloodline. While he's not looking for a wife in Queens like Murphy's character in the movie, Amukamara is here to help turn the New York Giants into the kings of the NFL.
|Prince Amukamara poses after being introduced as a Giant on Friday.|
Considered by many to be a top-10 talent and the second-best cornerback in this draft, Amukamara is the grandson of the king of the Awo-Omamma in Imo State of Nigeria. His father, Romanus, is a chief. And he says he is next in line to become chief.
He has supreme athletic genes as well. His mother, Christie, was a sprinter on the 1984 Nigerian Olympic track team.
He has five sisters (Princess, Precious, Promise, Peace and Passionate). Princess played a year on the junior varsity football team and ran track at Glendale Community College in Arizona. Precious is on the track and field team at Grand Canyon University, and Promise has committed to play basketball at Arizona State.
While all six kids were born in America, the Amukamaras are proud of their Nigerian heritage. The cornerback has visited Nigeria twice.
"Before going back, I mainly just thought of stuff I saw on 'National Geographic,' which was lions and stuff like that," Amukamara said. "But it is definitely nothing like that. It is a place that is beautiful and it is just like paradise."
Amukamara's journey to New York hasn't exactly been a completely blissful one. He was recruited to Nebraska as an athlete who wanted to be a running back. He rushed for 2,106 yards and scored 30 touchdowns during his senior year at Apollo High School in Glendale.
But the Cornhuskers converted him to defensive back, which he also played in high school.
"I definitely wasn't open to it," Amukamara said of the position switch. "I definitely wanted to transfer right away. I thought running back was my position."
Coach Bo Pelini convinced Amukamara that cornerback was going to be where he would shine. The 6-foot Amukamara started making plays in nickel and dime situations, and by the time he finished his senior year, he became only the third corner to earn Big 12 defensive player of the year honors. He also was a unanimous All-American, despite failing to record an interception after having five during his junior year.
Amukamara did have some trouble against the best receiver he faced this past season, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, who beat him for a 36-yard touchdown, drew a pass interference call and took a flea flicker 80 yards for another touchdown. However, Amukamara held Blackmon to one catch for 3 yards in the second half of that Nebraska victory.
"There was some concern about his production on the ball this past season," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "I think he had the reputation of being one of the better corners in the NCAA. The other thing is, the best player in college football [Ndamukong Suh] was drafted in their defensive front last year. So when you have a guy wreaking havoc up front like Suh, you get interceptions back there."
Amukamara will join a team that has one of the best defensive front lines in the game with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora terrorizing quarterbacks.
And he will have to earn playing time behind veteran corners Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross.
But Amukamara is up for the challenge. No one thought he would have to wait as long as he did to get drafted. The Giants were shocked to see him fall to 19. They had Amukamara 10th on their board. They gave consideration to taking Alabama running back Mark Ingram but ultimately went with the higher-rated talent and speed. Now Amukamara is ready to prove that the teams that passed on him were wrong.
"I definitely got that Brady Quinn flashback," Amukamara said of waiting in the green room until the Giants called him.
Had he been drafted much earlier, it's likely Amukamara would be a starter. With the Giants, he can learn from Webster, Thomas and Ross, and possibly push Ross at the third corner spot.
But soon enough, people will expect Prince to play like the Prince of New York.
And Amukamara knows that.
"The pressure is not as high [as starting for another team]," Amukamara said. "But it kind of is high because of playing for the Giants and just because how high the expectations are."