A football will always be missing in Darius Slayton's collection.
As a rookie, Slayton secured the ball from seven of his eight touchdown catches. The missing person belongs to Eli Manning, who threw Slayton the last touchdown pass of his 16-year career.
"Eli has retired, so this is a historic ball and definitely a moment that I will cherish forever," Slayton told The Post. "I'm glad he was blessed enough to play 16 years old."
But Slayton's way of needing a larger memorial shelf and becoming more than a trivial footnote in Giants history is to further consolidate his relationship with Daniel Jones. A week after he was on Super Bowl Radio Row – a sign of how much his star ratio has changed in a year – Slayton met Jones on Dukes' campus to stay sharp.
The plan was only in the works when they met in Miami. Sterling Shepard participated.
"I focus on the little things and try to improve my game mentally and physically," said Slayton. “From day one, when we came in with the rookies, Daniel and I stayed after a few days to get additional reps whenever he wanted. All of this helped us in the coming season. "
A luxury that Manning could never afford was a receiver with whom he could share a brain after a decade.
Amani Toomer was eight years old before Manning arrived. Plaxico Burress (prison sentence) and Victor Cruz (injury) had changed their careers. Odell Beckham Jr., whose 44 touchdown catches are most of the 58 receivers responsible for Manning's 366, essentially forced his trade out of town.
Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison (114) is the gold standard, but Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski (78), Drew Brees-Marques Colston (72) and Matt Ryan-Julio Jones (56 and counting) are contemporary examples of what-if ,
Perhaps Jones and Slayton, two picks in the Giants 10-player draft class for 2019, can develop a lasting chemistry.
"I definitely think that as we both continue to grow, our connection will continue to grow," said Slayton. "I look forward to playing with him as long as possible. He is a young, good player. I consider myself a young, good player. If we both get ahead, the sky is the limit. "
The Giants will have an additional April minicamp available to all teams with a new coaching staff, but the NFL rules prohibit players and coaches from talking about Playbook Xs and Os until then. Slayton spends most of his off-season at home in Georgia or in a warm place, not the team facility.
As of last week, Slayton hadn't heard directly from new coach Joe Judge.
"I know they hired some good, experienced people," said Slayton. “Coach Judge trained under coach [Bill] Belichick and Coach [Nick] Saban, so he has the family tree. I think it's an excited curiosity about what could be. It would be nice if everyone was healthy this year. "
Slayton was a five-round draft pick that would have been an anonymous face in Radio Row's crowd in 2019. A year later, he joined two former Auburn teammates and played with the best NFL talents.
"I want to win even more," said Slayton. "I feel like I've classified some people as wrong, but I still have a lot to do. It was a long way to get here, but I'm looking forward to doing a lot more in this league."