Lalos Shines in NFL Debut
Dartmouth alumnus records interception in Giants’ win
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WCAX) - 2020 Dartmouth grad Niko Lalos didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare himself for his NFL debut.
“I found out maybe like Thursday,” Lalos said. “One of the special teams coaches kinda like let me know, ‘Hey, I’m going to throw you in on special teams, we might try and activate you this weekend.’ Saturday’s when I kind of officially found out I was gonna be activated.”
He’s not the first from Dartmouth to make it to the league, but on Sunday, Lalos became the first Big Green alum to play in a regular season game in more than a decade. It was a special moment for the whole program, especially head coach Buddy Teevens.
“He’s worked so hard, football is extremely important to him,” Teevens said. “He was a very good student for us, he was a great representative of the college and the football program. And you never know, if you’re on the practice squad, you’re close. We had hoped that he might be activated a little bit sooner, but he certainly took full advantage.”
Even after getting the call up, the rookie defensive end didn’t expect as big a role as he ended up having.
“I knew I was going to be playing a lot of special teams but I didn’t know how many snaps I was gonna be playing on defense,” Lalos said. “And then with some injuries, it kind of opened up some opportunities.”
Lalos ended up playing nine snaps on defense in Big Blue’s win over Cincinnati, none of them bigger than one play late in the third. With the Giants up three and the Bengals driving, Brandon Allen threw a pass that was deflected by Darnay Holmes, and with his head on a swivel, Lalos dove in for the interception.
“Just kinda naturally able to see that the ball was just outside my hands and I was like, ‘Oh wow there’s actually a shot, this thing’s coming right at me,’” he said. “And then I laid out for it and it worked out.’”
“We thought about him as a tight end way back when,” Teevens added. “He put on a lot of size and strength and so forth so putting his hand on the ground was a plus but he never lost the athleticism. He has always been a great effort player, so he’s in a pass rush angle and he turns and he’s running downfield and there’s no other defensive lineman in sight, he is that extra effort and it was noted by Coach Judge. It was effort and that has been Niko since the day we met.”
That ensuing possession led to a field goal in a game the Giants won by two points to move into first place in the NFC East, so naturally the response has been pretty substantial. Lalos even got a shoutout from another pretty good pro athlete who happens to be a fellow alum of Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
“I didn’t really know that LeBron had shouted me out until after the game,” Lalos said. “Again it was just really cool to see. It’s always nice to have support from fellow alumni especially when they’re of his stature.”
As for his college alma mater, Teevens hopes Lalos can serve as an inspiration to show it’s possible to get an Ivy League education and still achieve the dream of playing in the NFL.
“Quite often, people overlook the Ivy League and they go, ‘Well, bunch of smart guys,’” Teevens said. “Yeah, smart guys who can play football at a high level. He did a great job in the classroom, he was a great person in the college community, he was involved in a lot of different things, not just football. And he’s a real good football player and he’s playing at the highest level.”
Lalos is back on the practice squad this week, but he says he’s ready to do whatever he can to help the team.
“I’m just happy to be around and I’ll play wherever they need me to be,” Lalos said. “Whatever’s the best option for the team, I’ll do.”
The Giants continue their playoff push Sunday afternoon in Seattle.
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