Givens in a Hurry to Make an Impact

Posted Jun 12, 2012

Surrounded by friends and family at a NFL Draft party back home in Wylie, Texas, Chris Givens couldn’t help but feel antsy as the second round began.

Givens had realistic expectations that he’d hear his name called at some point on the draft’s second day, preferably in its second round. The Rams held three picks in that round and had showed plenty of interest in him before the draft.

When looking at potential landing spots, Givens saw St. Louis as a land of opportunity. So when the Rams called the name of Appalachian State wideout Brian Quick with the first pick of the second round, Givens couldn’t help but be disappointed.

“That’s the mentality I took,” Givens said. “I actually thought once they took Quick that they weren’t going to take me so I thought it was a golden opportunity I missed out on.”

As the rest of the second round went by without his name being called, Givens grew more frustrated and went for a walk to clear his head. He paid the draft no attention for the rest of the night and vowed not to get too attached to any of it until he got the phone call informing him of his NFL destination.

By the time Saturday rolled around, Givens didn’t have to wait long. The Rams wasted little time starting the draft’s final day by drafting a talented wideout for the second day in a row, choosing Givens with the first pick of the fourth round.

In an instant, Givens went from sullen to ecstatic.

“Once I got the phone call, everything changed,” Givens said. “I was excited. It didn’t matter what round I got drafted because I knew I was going into a great situation here. I can learn from guys like Steve Smith and Danny Amendola and really just become the best receiver I can be.”

After a short hiatus to participate in the NFLPA’s rookie premiere week in Los Angeles, Givens has wasted no time making a strong impression during the Rams offseason program.

During the Organized Team Activities, Givens has rotated his way through the top three units, working with every quarterback on the roster at various points. He’s also made it a point to spend extra time after practice running routes and getting his timing down.

In that brief time, Givens has made it clear why he was most known for his top-end speed coming out of Wake Forest.

“Givens first of all is extremely fast,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I think he’s a guy that defenses are going to have to be extremely aware of. If they fall asleep on him for a half second at all, he’s going to be by them. I think that’s nice to have, just that added speed.”

Indeed, the No. 1 reason the Rams doubled down on the receiver position in April was to get a speedy complement to the big and physical Quick.

Givens is a former Texas high school track star who registered the fourth-fastest time in the 100 meters in 2008. At this year’s NFL Combine, he bolted through the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, one of the fastest times amongst the more than 300 players in attendance.

The moment the Rams and general manager Les Snead drafted Givens, he instantly became one of the fastest players on the roster and the receiver most likely to take the top off a defense.

“He was a fast player at the Combine,” Snead said. “He’s a 4.3 guy on the clock but I think you better be able to figure out, like I’ve said, if he can play fast. And this guy plays very, very fast. I think that’s just going to give us a dimension. He’ll be one of our fastest receivers on our team so that’s just going to open up things for (other guys).”

Givens’ speed is clearly evident on the practice field but he’s the first to acknowledge he still has plenty of work to do if he’s to become the player he wants to be.

After spending part of his career as a running back looking up to the likes of Eddie George, Terrell Davis and Reggie Bush, Givens transitioned to wideout as a redshirt freshman for the Demon Deacons. He quickly took to watching all kinds of receivers, including former Ram Torry Holt, and taking notes on how they handle their business.

In other words, Givens is still a relative newcomer to the wideout position. Although he had a reputation for being a good route runner from his college days, he says that’s still an area that he needs to work on and refine.

“Some of the routes are different,” Givens said. “But with any new task you have to adjust. Route running is route running; you have to just pick up on little things that help you get that much better. You are never perfect. It’s something you can work on every day and that’s the mentality that I take.”

Likewise, Givens is spending as much time as possible in his playbook. A bit overwhelmed at first by the sheer volume of his new scheme, he said he makes it a point to spend about an hour every night going back through what was taught in the meeting room that day.

Givens said translating all of that information to the field is the hardest part and though he’s not overwhelmed by the speed of the game – something many rookies point to as the most difficult part of the NFL transition – the actual speed and velocity of the passes coming from the likes of Bradford has been an adjustment.
“Just the velocity in which the ball comes to you,” Givens said. “That’s the biggest difference. Each quarterback has a strong arm and whether it’s a deep ball or a hitch route, the ball gets on you pretty fast.”

As each practice goes by, Givens has gotten more comfortable and said he notices himself reacting and playing more than thinking, a process that will almost certainly be ongoing throughout his rookie season.

With the likes of Amendola and Smith manning the slot position, Givens has done most of his work on the outside and has spent a considerable amount of time lined up opposite Quick. He’s also been working as a returner in special teams drills.

In Quick, Givens now has a running mate that for at least one night in April he thought had taken away an opportunity.

Now, the pair of Quick and Givens view their new football home as an opportunity to recreate the magic of legendary Rams receivers of yesteryear.

Considering Givens’ speed and Quick’s size and strength, the pair actually forms a near-perfect complement to one another, at least in terms of what physical attributes they bring to the table.

“We talk about it all the time,” Givens said. “We watch each other so much and just try to help each other out so he can be the best receiver he can be and I can be the best receiver I can be. If we are both doing our thing we could be hard to stop.”

Nearly two months removed from the draft, Givens has gained perspective on why he didn’t go as high as expected. He owns up to making some mistakes off the field that probably led to his falling a bit in the draft.

But that doesn’t mean Givens doesn’t view his opportunity in St. Louis as a prime chance to prove any doubters wrong. That perceived slight will serve as more motivation for the rookie wideout.

“The Friday night of the draft provided completely different motivation for me,” Givens said. “I really can’t explain it but it really motivated me to the point where I don’t want to settle for anything anymore. It was a little bit of disrespect and a little bit of just people not knowing who I am as a person and a player. I am out to prove everybody wrong.”

As for his rookie season expectations, Givens said he doesn’t really think in terms of numbers or statistical benchmarks. Instead, Givens prefers to focus on what he can do to help the team win as well as finding ways to go above and beyond what’s expected of him.

After all, the last time Givens set expectations for himself he ended up going about two rounds later than expected in the NFL Draft. This time around, he’s letting others set a bar that he expects to leap over.
“Really, I just want to exceed everyone’s expectations,” Givens said. “My goal is to be better than what people expect me to be. I am going to go out and leave it all out there on the field on Sundays and let the rest take care of itself.”