Mathias Kiwanuka has proven himself to be one of the most versatile talents on the New York Giants’ defense; however, things weren’t always going so well for him. A number of setbacks plagued him early on making it a difficult start to his career. He was unable to grow completely comfortable with his role on the Giants’ defense after being constantly moved from defensive end to linebacker. He had to deal with his brother’s motorcycle accident, and his career became threatened after experiencing a severe neck injury that caused him to miss the majority of the 2010 season. Another injury kept him from playing in his first Super Bowl. Nevertheless, Mathias has persevered and refused to allow these incidents to have an impact on his future in the NFL.
Kiwanuka’s personal life has seen several positive changes which happen to coincide with his excellent production on the field. During this offseason, he witnessed the birth of his first child, and just recently got married. In football related news; Kiwanuka helped the Giants become Super Bowl champions, and received a three year contract extension worth $16.5 million. On top of that he can now concentrate on being a permanent linebacker rather than worry about whether he will be switched to playing defensive end again, although he is expected to line up as one occasionally in certain packages. Kiwanuka expressed how he feels going into his second season as a full-time linebacker to Mike Garafolo in his summer questionnaire.
“It’s a big difference. I started to get more comfortable at the end of last year. But having the ability to go from one offseason to the next playing the same position, it means a lot. It’s getting there. I don’t think I’ll ever be content with how I’m playing, but I’m still working on it and I feel 10 times more comfortable playing there.”
Kiwanuka, who was played defensive end for the majority of his football career, is fully aware of the beating a player can take at both defensive end and linebacker. Because of his injury history, one may speculate that linebacker may be a safer position to play rather than defensive end. Kiwanuka was asked which position was better for his body.
“I don’t think it matters because they’re both high-impact positions in different ways. As a linebacker, there’s more space between you and the blocker, so there’s more momentum involved but it’s a smaller guy you’re going against. Defensive line, there less space but you’re going up against a 300-pound guy. So I think it equals out at some point.”
After experiencing what it’s like to play in a Super Bowl and to get married, Kiwanuka reflects on which one he felt was more stressful.
“I’m going to have to go with the wedding. I’ve been playing football for a long time; I’ve never been married before. I know what to expect on one side.”
Currently Mathias is spending time with his wife and newborn child as he awaits the beginning of training camp later this month. Like most fathers, this is time he values very much.
“It’s been awesome. It’s the best experience of my life. Everybody says it’s hard to explain what you feel and that’s exactly right. There’s no way to explain it. It’s just unconditional love. It’s a great experience.”
It’s certainly great to see a player who works so hard for his team to be rewarded with a new contract but also with a new family. Kiwanuka has been a team first player who has done everything the coaches have asked of him. Here’s to hoping the rest of his time in the NFL will be as rewarding as the last year has been for him.
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