Monday, May 14, 2012

Giants greet big German Kuhn


May 12, 2012

It’s clear as soon as Markus Kuhn opens his mouth (think Arnold Schwarzenegger) he is no ordinary newcomer at the Giants’ rookie camp this weekend.

Just the second native of Germany ever to be drafted by the NFL, the hulking defensive tackle is trying to be just the second German native to stick in the NFL after the Giants made him a seventh-round pick last month.

Kuhn is trying to follow in the footsteps of Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a native of Dusseldorf and second-round pick in 2009 who faced the Giants in the Super Bowl last season.

Though Kuhn’s bid to make it in American pro football is an unlikely one (he is 26 and has never seen an NFL game in person), it wouldn’t be the first time his quest has been described that way.

“It was only six years ago that my father and I were traveling the East Coast with a DVD highlight tape, asking small colleges like Liberty University if they wanted to give me a chance,” the 6-foot-4, 303-pound Kuhn said Friday after the first day of the rookie mini-camp at the Meadowlands.

“To be standing here now and talking about being just the second native of Germany to be drafted in the NFL is pretty remarkable, I would say.”

Vollmer hadn’t emerged by the time Kuhn and his father went on their American scholarship quest, so they didn’t know quite what to expect. When Liberty and the other small schools showed immediate interest in Kuhn, who already was 21 at the time, his father told him to step back and aim higher.

It was a smart move, because Kuhn quickly landed with North Carolina State and didn’t need long to show he belonged in a foreign game. He started the first game of his college career in 2007, was named a freshman All-American by the Sporting News.

After battling injuries that forced him to redshirt the 2009 season, Kuhn came back strong and was an anchor for the Wolfpack last year with 4½ sacks and 10 tackles for lost yardage.

Not bad for someone who didn’t take up the sport until he was 15 (Kuhn said he was too bulky for soccer and liked football from watching the NFL on television) and who occasionally had to play quarterback for his club team because it didn’t have enough players.

The Giants don’t lack for defensive linemen, but general manager Jerry Reese always has been a believer in the “best available player” philosophy and sees Kuhn as a project worth the gamble.

“He’s a gym rat — big, strong and tough,” Reese said last month. “He would be great to put in your defensive-line rotation. He’s still learning, but I love his energy. He’s like a buzz saw.”

Though Vollmer is the natural comparison, Kuhn has another prominent — much more prominent — German sports transplant in mind when he dreams about how his NFL career will unfold.

“Dirk Nowitzki is definitely a role model for me, coming here and making it big and winning a championship just on hard work,” Kuhn said of the NBA star. “It would be a dream to become the Dirk Nowitzki of American football.”

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