The song is called “Warrior’’ from his “Warrior 3’’ mixtape, and when it sounded from the speakers lining the field as the Giants were stretching for practice on Day 2 of training camp, the author and creator of the music was stunned.
Yung Joka the artist was jolted to hear himself, as was Kadarius Toney, the second-year Giants wide receiver, who are one and the same.
“It just kind of surprised me, it kinda had me juiced up,’’ Toney said Friday. “I was like ‘OK, OK, OK.’ I appreciate ‘em for doing it because it showed me the willingness to be able to have a good relationship with me, you know what I’m saying?’’
A little can go a long way, and the inclusion of Toney’s hip hop offering meant something to the 23-year old, coming off a turbulent and disappointing rookie season. Toney and trust do not go hand-in-hand, as far as his immediate acceptance of those he does not know. The previous coaching regime led by Joe Judge tried to make it work with Toney, selected with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he was hurt so often and not fully ready for what the NFL life is all about.
So far, much better for Toney. He is healthy and digging the new staff, led by Brian Daboll.
“I think he’s a very loyal guy,’’ Daboll said. “And you got to build trust with KT. And he had to build trust with me. Really no different than a lot of guys. Trust is probably one of the most important things in any relationship you can build.
“I’ve told you from day one, I’ve been very happy with KT, his approach, how he is as a person, first and foremost, because that’s what matters to me. We’ve seen him in college. We evaluated him. He has a tremendous skillset. He’s smart. We move him around quite a bit. He’s a good young player that we’re going to help develop any way we can both on and off the field.’’
Daboll said he asked Toney during the offseason to send him some samples of his music.
“Some I liked better than others,’’ Daboll said. “Talented guy.’’
Some of Yung Joka’s songs were played during the spring, but Toney did not anticipate the training camp playlist to include his handiwork.
“I think that’s pretty great, I ain’t gonna lie,’’ Toney said, and then pivoted. “I’m focused on ball right now.”
Ah yes, ball. He owned the highlight on the first day of camp, leaping and securing a touchdown reception on a lob from Daniel Jones, with Toney defeating the strong coverage of cornerback Aaron Robinson. There have been other notable moments but also some rough patches, where Toney looks as if he is still trying to figure out the new offense.
At this time last year, Toney was dealing with a hamstring issue that limited his work in camp, initiating a disconcerting series of physical ailments that frequently kept him out of practice and, as it turned out, out of six games in his rookie season.
When he played? Only flashes. That’s about it. He was a revelation in Week 4, when the Giants beat the Saints in New Orleans, with six receptions for 78 yards. A week later, he was an electrifying blur in a loss in Dallas, with 10 catches for 189 yards, shredding the Cowboys with abandon. It was a glimpse into what the Giants hope Toney can be — once he smooths out the rough edges.
“Just something to build off of,’’ Toney said.
A minor knee procedure kept Toney off the field during the spring but he is full-go this summer. He admitted he is more comfortable in year No. 2.
The new coaching staff is a better fit for Toney.
“I like that they came here, honestly,’’ he said.
Toney appreciates the new offense because it allows what he calls more “flexibility’’ for the receivers. He described the 2021 approach as “pen and paper,’’ meaning the receivers were required to run the routes the exact way they were designed in the playbook. Now? There is room for more instinctual adjustments, as long as the receiver and Jones are in sync.
“It gives you a chance to win, instead of just having to do it a certain way every time,’’ Toney said. “It’s all about chemistry with Danny too. The coaches can only draw up the play, we got to execute it. It takes a lot of communication, especially knowing who you’re running your routes off, what you’re looking for when you look at the defense, stuff like that.”
It is early, but Toney looks and sounds like a new guy.
“I’m getting ready,’’ he said, “to show what I can do.’’