CJ Conrad
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New York Giants rookie tight end CJ Conrad will be one of the many players looking to stand out Thursday night in the preseason opener against the Jets.

Jason Leach

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—The New York Giants will kick off their preseason schedule on Thursday night when they take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium in the preseason opener.

This will be the first big test for players on the bubble to have a breakout game and help their chances of making the final roster.

One of those players looking to stand out is undrafted free agent tight end CJ Conrad out of Kentucky.

Conrad played four years for the Kentucky Wildcats. He appeared in 35 games and amassed 80 receptions for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns.

It can be difficult for a player to stand out in training camp with the limited number of reps they get each practice; but Conrad has shined in camp, catching some nice passes from Daniel Jones and the other backup quarterbacks. His play in camp has earned the praise of his head coach Pat Shurmur.

“Good. He’s a tough, competitive guy, and I think those are necessary traits to play our game,” Shurmur said when describing the rookie tight end. “So that’s where you start. He’s a good learner. I would say he’s a notch better blocker than he is a route-runner at this time, which is a good thing. He’s becoming a little bit of a fan favorite out there. He’s made some nice catches in practice. But then he’s also made his mistakes. I like the way he competes, and I think he’s a tough guy. I think he has a bright future.”

Earning practice praise from the coach on how you practice is one thing, impressing them in an actual game is another, and Conrad is excited at the opportunity to showcase his skills Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.

Following Giants practice on Tuesday, I had to chance to speak with Conrad and ask him how much he’s looking forward to playing in his first NFL game.

“I’m extremely excited. It’s my first NFL game (and) all the hard work I put in getting to this point, I’m just excited. But you also have to have that mindset that this is just a football game, and you can’t make it too big and you just have to focus and do your assignment.”

Conrad mentioned he doesn’t know how many snaps he’ll play, but the coaches told him to be ready at all times, and he’s prepared to not only make plays as a tight end, but on special teams as well.

At 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, Conrad has the ideal size that you want in a tight end in today’s NFL. Not only has he shown that he has good hands, but he’s also a solid blocker.

With Conrad in camp, the Giants employ a very deep and talented core of tight ends that includes Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson and Garrett Dickerson.

I asked Conrad how the other tight ends have helped with his progression.

“Oh man all of those guys have been a huge help and I lean on those guys heavily,” Conrad proclaimed. “Being the rookie in the tight end room I ask a lot of questions, and Rhett has helped a lot with the run game as far as technique-wise what he’s done and what he’s seen because he’s seen it all, he’s been in the league quite some time now. With Evan, I ask a lot about the passing game because he’s kind of an artist with his footwork and how he does things. So I always ask him questions or any of the other guys, it’s such a cool room they’re really open to coach the young guys up and I really appreciate that.”

Throughout rookie camp, and now training camp, Conrad has made a name for himself in the Giants organization. Now, he hopes in a few weeks it will get the word that he’s made the team. I asked him what it would be like to be on the final roster.

“It would amazing. It’s an honor to be here in the first place and going through this process. To make the roster would be a dream come true for me. That’s why I’m getting up every day and competing at my highest level. That’s my number one goal right now. I feel like if I stay on track I’m going to give myself the best opportunity to do it.”

Conrad is definitely a player Giants fans should keep their eyes on Thursday night, and for the rest of the preseason, as he seems to be improving on a daily basis.

Conrad’s other interest

As far as what Conrad likes to do when he’s not practicing or preparing for a game, he said he’s an outdoorsman who likes to fish and enjoys going to Lake Erie when he’s back home in LaGrange, Ohio.

Conrad is also a huge golfer. Conrad likes the game of golf because of the way it challenges him. Conrad loves Tiger Woods, but his favorite golfer is Brooks Koepka because he’s a big dude playing golf and he’s defying the odds of a normal-looking golfer. When it comes to food, Conrad loves patronizing Chipotle.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.