He raced fluidly across his field of dreams with the effortless moves of a natural athlete.
For Eli Manning, for Daniel Jones, for Saquon Barkley, for every other New York Giant, this was another football day in May, another OTA.
For the kid wearing Ballentine in white letters above 25 on his blue jersey, this was much more.
It was his first time on the field for team drills, the next meaningful step toward what one day he hopes to remember as a triumph over tragedy.
Corey Ballentine, cornerback, is not yet ready to meet the media and answer questions about the fateful night his friend and Washburn University teammate Dwane Simmons was shot and killed in Topeka, Kan., the fateful night Ballentine was shot in the butt and hospitalized briefly, a nightmare that so cruelly followed hours after a dream come true when he was drafted into the NFL in the sixth round by the New York Football Giants.
His teammates, young and old, and his coaches can only hope that heaven is a football field for him, a therapeutic place that can help the healing, which now will be more emotional than physical.
They vow to be his support group as much as they can, and comfort him if and when he needs comforting less than a month since his friend was buried.
Quarterback of the Future Daniel Jones was the first pick in Ballentine’s draft class, the sixth overall pick, and he has taken it upon himself to volunteer a helping hand.
“We’ve talked about it. … He knows that I think all of us … but yeah, I’ve let him know I’m here for him if he needs me,” Jones told The Post.
“I think those situations are tough, and the best we can do is be there for him if he does want to talk. It’s definitely a tough situation. It’s tough to say you know exactly what he’s feeling, but just to be there for him and be there if he needs something.”
If anyone has any sense of what Ballentine has been forced to endure, it is 34-year-old safety Antoine Bethea.
“One of my best friends got killed when I was in the league,” Bethea said. “My father-in-law passed from a heart attack. My mom battled breast cancer, a brain aneurysm.”
Bethea remembers how much it meant to hear his teammates say to him: “ ’Toine, I’m here for you, whatever you need.’ ”
Safety Mike Thomas is entering his eighth season in the league.
“We all go through things, that’s all I’ll say,” Thomas said.
Some things are worse than others.
“It’s tough,” Thomas said. “All you can do is be there for ’em. When you notice that they need somebody to talk to, you try to be there. If they need help, try to get ’em help. Speak up.
“The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself, but at the end of the day, it’s therapeutic for all of us because everybody goes through something, it’s therapeutic to get back out here and focus on football and take your mind off of those things.”
In the meantime, Thomas has been a football resource for Ballentine. Bethea has not yet broached the tragedy with Ballentine either.
“Obviously, that’s a real sensitive subject,” Bethea said. “Obviously, going from getting that call and then obviously experiencing that. … You kinda hold off on that. Let things like that happen organically.”
The Giants hail Ballentine as a dream young man.
“The biggest thing for me is I want him to come here and make this feel as normal as possible,” Pat Shurmur told The Post. “He’s obviously been through a horrible experience, and so get him in, go to work, you’re one of the guys, we’re there for him if he needs something and we have many professionals in the building that can help him. But from my standpoint, just get him out there, and try to make it as normal as possible and bring him back physically so that he can be out there full speed.”
They all think Ballentine — 6-foot, 196 pounds, 4.47 speed in the 40 — has a chance to make it.
Shurmur: “He’s got all the things you’re looking for in a defensive back.”
Bethea: “I think he’s gonna have a bright future.”
They’re doing all they can to let the sunshine in.