On the football field, offensive tackles and outside linebackers/edge rushers are natural adversaries.
Yet when it comes to Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and rookie outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, that natural disdain that's supposed to exist given their chosen positions on the gridiron couldn't be further from the truth.
Thomas and Ojulari are about as close as friends can be, thanks to their shared love of football that brought them together at Georgia.
"I met Azeez my sophomore year at Georgia," Thomas said via an interview done with the Giants' in-house media.
"When we first met – our friend group, my other two roommates in college, we all went to the same high school, so we already knew each other. It took a minute for him to open up to us and to get to know him, but after a few months we started hanging out, going everywhere together, going to get food and we started to bond and stuff like that. We became brothers."
That friendship between Thomas and Ojulari became so strong that they would soon end up as roommates.
"I already had a few roommates and we switched around or whatever," Thomas said. "He was able to move with me, so he moved in and that’s when we started our relationship."
Even when Thomas left for the NFL, the bond remained so strong that Thomas was there for Ojulari as he waited for a call during the draft.
When that call eventually came, and Ojulari realized it was from the Giants, the feeling of anticipation was replaced by euphoria.
"It was crazy when I got the call, man. I saw a New York on it so I just picked it up," Ojulari told reporters shortly after he was drafted Friday evening. "I was just so happy to be on the phone with the Giants. It was electric. It was a great moment for me and my family and Drew being in the house, too."
"I’m excited for him," Thomas said. "We got a great player, he works hard. I’m excited. He gets to work with [LB] Lorenzo [Carter], they play the same position, both came from Georgia, so I’m excited to see what he can do. Good player. He’s definitely going to help our team."
If iron sharpens iron, then the Giants can probably expect Ojulari to square off a few times against his old college roommate. The rookie claimed that he often got the better of his roommate at Georgia, a claim Thomas naturally denied.
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Regardless of who won those battles, there's no question that the two former Bulldogs, who also have outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter as part of their growing circle of Georgia alumnus, all come from a program that Giants head coach Joe Judge highly respects.
"They do a great job of recruiting top talent and develop them over the course of time they are there," Judge said of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, with whom he once worked on the Alabama coaching staff. "Those players work hard and play hard and understand the value of playing old school, fundamental, physical football. That's really what draws to us.
"When you know where someone is coming from, you have a little bit of insight in how you can coach them, okay, what really makes them tick and how they respond in adverse situations."
The Giants need for Thomas, in his second season, Ojulari, and Carter, who is coming back from a ruptured Achilles, to bring it this year if they're to have any hopes of finally recording a winning record for the first time since 2016.
Carter was on his way toward turning the corner as a pass rusher until his injury. Thomas, who struggled during his rookie season, also has a high ceiling.
"I think he has all the intangibles," said Thomas, who often practiced against the rookie while at Georgia. "He’s fast, he’s strong, has good weight, but personally, the thing that I feel like makes him different from other guys is his heart and how he plays the game. He’ll run through a brick wall for his teammates. That’s how he plays the game.
"I’ve never seen a D-end take on a counter like him. We had [OL] Solomon Kindley and Sol loved pulling, and Azeez everyday looked forward to it. You don’t see that much from outside linebackers. A lot of times, they just want to rush the passer and do things like that, but Azeez doesn’t care about the glory. He just works hard, so I think that’s what separates him."
Ojulari validated that point during his call with reporters by pledging his commitment to come in and get right to work. Having some familiar faces from his college days will undoubtedly help him in hitting the ground running.
"It's just great just having my brothers up there already," Ojulari said. "They're people that I have conversations with. It would be great for me to come in there and learn from them. They've been there, so they can teach me and tell me things. So, I just can't wait to get up there with those guys and be ready to work."
Already Thomas has begun taking Ojulari, whom he described as "a real good dude, level-headed kid" under his wing by sharing with him some advice that he learned as a rookie playing in the New York spotlight.
"I would say embrace it but understand it’s a business," Thomas said. "It’s different than college. You’ve got to come to work every day because they’re trying to get people in every day to come take your spot, so you’ve always got to be prepared and treat it like a business."
And what about life in New Jersey?
"I already told him you’ve got to get that bubble coat ready because it’s cold up there. [Head] Coach [Joe] Judge is not practicing in the indoors when it’s snowing, so I’ve got to get his mind ready for that."