- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Geoffrey Pope realizes the unlikelihood of it all, the road he has taken to potentially playing for the New York Giants on Sunday night in Super Bowl XLII.

Mid-major college player who sustained a quadriceps injury and lost his starting job.

Transferred to a low-profile, Division I-AA school.

Wasn’t invited to the scouting combine.

Didn’t get drafted.

Got cut in training camp and wasn’t added to the practice squad.

Signed to a new team’s practice squad and didn’t play in regular season.

And now this: Playing cornerback late in the New York Giants’ playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, playing special teams in the Giants’ NFC Championship game victory over the Green Bay Packers and, depending on how many cornerbacks the team dresses, playing in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

Last year rookie safety Antoine Bethea represented Howard University in the Super Bowl when he started for the Indianapolis Colts. Now it’s Pope, who was elevated to the active roster Dec. 31 and has appeared in two of the Giants’ three postseason games.

“It couldn’t be a bigger dream come true,” he said.

For most of the season, the dream for Pope was just to get on the field. But his action was limited to going against Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith, Amani Toomer and Sinorice Moss in practice.

A rash of injuries to the Giants’ cornerbacks resulted in Pope’s promotion. Veteran Sam Madison was injured in the regular-season finale and missed New York’s first two playoff games. Kevin Dockery was injured against Tampa Bay in the wild card round and missed two games. Dockery’s injury got Pope in uniform. Aaron Ross’ shoulder injury against Dallas got Pope on the field.

A year after covering receivers in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Pope was going against Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn in the waning moments of the Giants’ upset win over the Cowboys.

With Dockery available, Pope may be inactive for the Super Bowl.

“[Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] has done a good job preparing everybody because you never know who’s going to play and he doesn’t want to change his scheme, so you have to be ready,” Pope said.

A native of Detroit, Pope, 23, started his collegiate career at Eastern Michigan. He was starting at cornerback when a quadriceps injury derailed his season.

Pope had a falling out with the coaching staff and medical department over the course of the rehabilitation. When he lost his starting job during spring practice, he transferred to Howard.

“What they wanted me to do wasn’t so bad, but I think they tried to rush me back,” Pope said. “It took me a good six to eight weeks before I could walk, let alone run and cut. There isn’t any bitterness toward my teammates there because I still talk to them. But I felt some of the coaches hung me out to dry.”

As a two-year performer at Howard, Pope totaled 79 tackles and four interceptions. He expected to be drafted in the final three rounds of the draft. But 28 cornerbacks were drafted, and Pope wasn’t one of them.

Pope said a dozen teams contacted his agent after the draft, and he signed with the Dolphins.

“I thought I had a good camp, but I didn’t play as well as I did during the summer practices and OTAs,” Pope said. “I thought I showed I could play at this level, so I was disappointed and shocked they didn’t even keep me on the practice squad.”

Enter the Giants. New York was interested in signing Pope after the draft, and the day he was cut by Miami, the Giants signed him to the practice squad.

“As soon as he was cut, we knew we wanted to bring him in,” cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta said.

From Howard to Miami’s practice squad to the Giants’ practice squad to potentially playing in the Super Bowl … all in a year. The journey continues next week when Pope returns to classes — he’s 20 hours away from earning a degree in advertising.

“It’s been a great ride and truly a blessing to get here,” he said.

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