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Darius Powe hopes to be the next undrafted receiver to break out in the NFL

The 6'3, 220-pound receiver was a late bloomer at Cal, finishing strong as a senior. The Giants are counting on him to carry that momentum into training camp.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- That first draft night, he knew his name would not be called. Only 31 would in the first round. So, Cal receiver Darius Powe waited until the final six rounds over the final two draft days to watch with his family in Linwood, Calif.

Still, his name was not called.

His family was confused. He told them his best NFL chance was now to become an undrafted free agent signee. That required a phone call. A team willing to dial his number.

"I was a little upset waiting for my name to be called," Powe said. "I did not hear my name. And then right after the final round, the last pick, my phone started to ring. A lot. Three teams called: Atlanta, the Giants and Green Bay. I looked at those rosters. I knew who needed receivers and more importantly who needed big receivers. I chose the Giants; a good fit for me. Then two more calls came, from Detroit and Miami."

He stuck with the Giants.

He realized in the NFL entry process that the priority way is to be drafted and the best option afterward is to receive post-draft calls. That can be nearly as marvelous: In the last four years, 55 percent of the rookies on NFL rosters were drafted and 45 percent latched on as undrafted free agents.

Powe hungers to be in that 45 percent. Last weekend he completed his first Giants rookie camp. He graduates from Cal on May 14. He'll return to the Giants complex the following day.

His Cal quarterback, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 overall pick (Rams). Powe enters through the back door, the tricky way, designing a twist on the way his name was called.

"Before the season last year, we listed three personal goals," Powe said. "Mine were, one, to always leave the field with no regrets; two, to have no more than five drops and; three, get drafted. Well, I played my heart out. I only had four drops. I didn't get drafted, but I have the same opportunity as Jared, just a different route. I always like my chances when I get the opportunity."

* * *

Powe is a late bloomer.

He caught six touchdowns in his first 42 Cal games and then five in his final four. He caught 104 career passes -- 47 as a senior. He became a starter in his final eight Cal games.

He is a strapping 6'3, 220-pound receiver who describes himself as " a good worker, a receiver with a physical mentality, a bully receiver, consistent, dependable, a receiver who gets open on third and fourth downs and gets you the first down, a guy who knows how to use his body if you put it my area and will win the mismatch in size."

He was in a jumbled mix at Cal.

"When I came to Cal in 2012, we had six receivers arrive that year," Powe said. "The core stayed for four years. Jared came in 2013. Jared and I started to click. He began to notice the plays that worked for me. By the time I was a junior, he knew my full skills set. Last season, we kept growing together."

Cal receivers coach Jacob Peeler takes pride in six Cal receivers last season catching at least 40 passes. It was rotate and share among them.

He said Powe kept rising.

"He would have played on every special teams if we had let him, but as the season went on he became too valuable at receiver," Peeler said. "He is a guy we trusted on the field at all times. This year we had two receivers drafted and four make it as free agents, including Darius. Darius is one of those people that make your room better, who lights up a room, who brings energy and excitement every single day. Always respectful, always smiling. He ran a 4.4 on his pro day. The scouts were shocked that a guy his size can run like that. And because of what he can do on special teams, he is a natural for the Giants. I truly believe he has not come anywhere close to his peak. He is only 22 and is working on his craft. The best is ahead of him."

The Giants have been searching for a primary, effective, big red-zone target. Powe fits. The Giants need youth and strength at the position. Powe has it. His blocking skills emulate that longtime staple of the Giants best receivers.

He is not among the Giants by accident.

"From a physical standpoint," said Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, "he's what you're looking for. You see him make plays. Now it's all about how quickly he can take the volume from the meetings to the practice field. He'll be thrown the kitchen sink. Can he process and play fast? He's able to separate. He makes contested catches. He has a big catch radius. You know, greatness can come from anywhere."

* * *

Last week, when Powe walked into the Giants complex for the first time, he shivered.

"This is really crazy, I thought," he said. "I am in an NFL facility. I get to work out here. My name is on a locker -- No. 86. I was No. 10 in college, but I like 86."

He is big enough to wear it. He is determined to make it his for good.

His three new goals: Make the team, prove to the organization that he is a dependable player and have fun.

"All of the Cal wide receivers are on a group chat with Jared [Goff]," Powe said. "He texted us before the rookie camps, `Good luck to ya'll -- ball out!' Jared was preparing himself for this his entire senior year. We all were."

For their names to be called.

Or, like Powe, for the phone merely to ring.