“You always gotta have something to prove,” New York Giants tight end Will Tye said.
Despite coming off of an All-Rookie season in which he accrued 464 yards on 42 receptions and leading all first-year tight ends in each category, the former Stony Brook star is still not content with his play and believes he can become more of a red-zone threat.
Although he finished the 2015 season as the starting tight end, the position is not his yet.
Veteran tight end Larry Donnell enters the 2016 season fully healthy after missing most of last season with a neck injury. Upon entering camp, Tye found himself in a positional battle with Donnell, who had arrived at training camp ready to compete with the Giants new and young tight end for the starting job.
But Donnell has some making up to do for his missed time. Tye finished last season with a touchdown in three of his team’s final four games. It was clear that the more he played with Eli Manning, the more comfortable the pair became with one another on the football field.
If there was any positivity in the waning weeks of the Giants 2015 season — one in which they went just 6-10 — it was the emergence of the team’s tight end of the future.
Signed as an undrafted rookie, Tye did not see his first action until week four. Significant injuries to Donnell and Daniel Fells quickly propelled Tye from the practice squad to a starting role. He is grateful to work with two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, and he is someone who Tye says has helped him take the next step as an NFL player.
“He has definitely helped me,” Tye said. “Always correcting me on certain things, whether it is pass protection, being in the backfield with him, and my route running.”
New head coach Ben McAdoo has not confirmed that Tye will be the team’s starter come Week 1, despite his strong finish in 2015. Through the first two preseason games, Tye has caught two passes for 14 yards while Larry Donnell has been held without a catch.
“We expect him to continue to develop and grow to be a big piece for us at that position,” the team’s general manager Jerry Reese told NJ.com at this spring’s NFL Scouting Combine.
Tye’s play last season was reminiscent of San Diego Chargers tight end and eight-time Pro Bowler Antonio Gates. McAdoo and others have dubbed Tye “Baby Gates” as a result.
He knows that comparisons like these only serve as motivation to bring his game to the next level. During the offseason he worked hard to improve his game. Tye said becoming a better blocker was a big focus in his offseason training to become more of all-around tight end. He also worked hard to improve his footwork and running, which will keep him in good shape to remain consistent on the football field.
He is a product of the growing Stony Brook Athletic Program, being the first player out of the university to catch a pass in the National Football League.
In recent months, the undrafted free agent reached out to a pair of former Seawolves – Dallas Mavericks forward Jameel Warney and Baltimore Ravens defensive end Victor Ochi – in the same situation that Tye was in last summer: undrafted free agent looking to make a regular-season roster.
“You’ve got to remain focused,” Tye told them. “Take any chance you have as a great opportunity and do your best.”