On Thursday morning, Michael Esiobu will board a United Airlines Flight with non-stop service to Newark, N.J.
The next day, 11 miles down the road in East Rutherford, the Lakeland College graduate will don New York Giants blue, white and red practice gear and set out to prove that yes, a wide receiver from a school of fewer than 800 on-campus students can catch footballs in the NFL.
“It’s kind of hard to put everything into perspective right now,” said Esiobu, a 6-2, 223-pounder who will participate in the invitation-only, two-day undrafted free agent mini-camp on Friday and Saturday.
“Playing in the NFL is something you dream about, but for it to actually be happening, to actually have a shot, it’s surreal.”
What a weekend it was for Esiobu, who received a call from his agent confirming the Giants’ invitation on Saturday evening, then graduated on Sunday afternoon. The attention has been overwhelming. He gained more than 200 Twitter followers, his YouTube highlight video went from 600 views to more than 1,500 and his Facebook page and phone have blown up.
“Giants fans are tweeting me, wishing me good luck and telling me to go out and become the next Victor Cruz (the Giants receiver who was also undrafted),” Esiobu said. “My phone has been non-stop. Sheboygan is such a small community, but it seems like everyone wants me to do well. The support has just been unreal.”
Esiobu said he allowed himself to soak up the attention over the weekend, but on Monday, he was working out, because “that’s my job right now.”
Last season, the Muskies’ second-leading receiver snared 56 catches for 792 yards and seven TDs.
“I’m going into this with the mindset that yes, the other players will be bigger and faster than what I’m used to facing in our conference, but I know myself, too” he said.
“I match up physically. Now I’m working hard on the technical stuff. Everyone there will be good. They will all be NFL-caliber players. But if you can play football, you can play football, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from. I’m going to go out there and have fun. I know I’m aggressive attacking the ball, and when the ball is in the air, I think I can win any situation.”
Esiobu said he plans to prove to the Giants coaches how much he wants to be there, from excelling at every drill to jumping in whenever a coach needs a player on special teams.
No matter what happens on Friday and Saturday, Esiobu plans to give it all he has – and not just for himself.
“I just want to thank everyone at Lakeland, from the students to the faculty and really, the entire Sheboygan community.”