Once upon a time, Prince Amukamara was an awkward rookie cornerback with the New York Giants, having been selected in the first-round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He lived a virgin lifestyle at the time, and while liked by his teammates, didn’t necessarily fit in.
At one point during his rookie season, hazing went a tad too far when then-defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, picked Amukamara up and carried him through the locker-room before dumping him into a cold tub.
The entire incident was caught on video courtesy of punter Steve Weatherford, and went viral almost immediately.
It was a down moment for Amukamara, who publicly took the entire incident in stride despite obviously being bothered by it, but one he knows reflects on with a different mindset.
Seven years removed from that incident, Amukamara is now married to Pilar Davis, the pair have two children and the cornerback holds a key leadership role for the NFC North-leading Bears.
“I’m married with two kids, I’ve grown up a bit,” Amukamara told USA TODAY on Thursday. “My time with the Giants meant a lot to me, obviously. When I saw Dave Merritt and Al Holcomb in Arizona, Giunta in New Orleans, I’ve made sure to tell them how much what they taught me when I was a young player is showing. Now I get it, and I appreciate them for it.
“One hundred percent, I can appreciate how far I’ve come and how my personality and my game has grown. It’s funny that all the stuff guys with the Giants were teaching me, and telling me back then, I’m getting it now. I’ve told , , Antrel , even Ahmad and , I was so fortunate to be groomed by them. Some people might call it ridicule and hazing, but to be groomed by them, it was the best situation I could have ever been with the Giants.”
Amukamara brings what he learned from those former Giants teammates with him each day, and it’s helped establish him as one of the most respected players in the Bears’ locker-room.
“Because now I’m taking those experiences and sharing that with the younger guys here . Now I’m one of the leaders in the room – but I’m not baptizing anybody in no cold tub,” Amukamara said, half-jokingly.
On Sunday, Amukamara will return to East Rutherford for the first time since his departure in 2015, and while he insists there’s nothing “personal” about the game, he acknowledges his excitement.
Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is good friends with Amukamara, also admits he’s excited to go up against a familiar face, but says facing Prince will bring its own unique set of challenges.
“I haven’t gotten the chance to go against many former teammates, but Prince was like a brother when he was here,” Beckham said. “I honestly, I can say I love Prince, that’s my guy. I have to try and stay focused when I’m in the game with him lined up across from me. He’s always been a good corner, but it’s just Prince – I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just Prince, and he’s there, and he’s a goofy guy. I’m gonna have to snap back early in the game and be able to compete against him, and I know he’s excited as well.”
Amukamara will undoubtedly generate some cheers from the MetLife Stadium crowd on Sunday, having helped the Giants win a championship in 2011. But once kickoff arrives, at least for four quarters, he’ll be an enemy — a goofy enemy you really want to root for anyway.