Giants players with ties to southern Florida thinking of Hurricane Irma

Jun 13, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) and defensive end Olivier Vernon (54) talk with MetLife stadium in the background during mini camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Giants prepare for their regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, some players from southern Florida were thinking of their family members and friends caught in the path of Hurricane Irma.

“It’s very tough,” backup quarterback Geno Smith, who hails from Miami, said in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “I can just think about what those people in Houston went through (with Hurricane Harvey). People whose families live there on other teams, it’s very tough.

“I’ve even heard some guys say they wish they had a chance to go home and actually help out and lend a hand. But with us being occupied here, it’s very tough. You just pray for the best. Hopefully nothing happens. But if so, you’ve got to do whatever you can to help.”

Smith is one of a handful of Giants players from southern Florida.

“You just have to keep positive especially with my family and my friends down there that I consider family,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said. Vernon was born in Miami, played his college ball at the University of Miami, and spent his first four NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins. “But I’m just being positive and hoping for the best.”

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, offensive lineman Bobby Hart, and linebacker J.T. Thomas are also from the Miami area.

Irma, at one point the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, tore through the Caribbean with winds up to 185 miles per hour. The storm is responsible for at least 22 deaths. Barbuda was struck particularly hard as Michael Joseph, president of the American Red Cross, declared the island “uninhabitable” in “total blackout” with nearly its entire infrastructure destroyed.

Irma is scheduled to hit south Florida on Sunday. More than five million people have been ordered to evacuate and thousands more are in shelters bracing for the storm. The storm’s projected track is expected to take it up Florida’s west coast as opposed to up the middle. Florida’s eastern coast is still in danger because of Irma’s immense size.

Smith says his family has no plans to evacuate.

“Everyone down there is prepared for hurricanes because it’s so common so they have the shudders and everything,” Smith said. “My mom isn’t leaving. She doesn’t like the cold, she doesn’t like coming up here (to New York). She’s a Miami lifer, so she’s not leaving.”

Vernon’s mother traveled to Kentucky before Irma became a threat and now she cannot return home. His father hadn’t decided whether or not he would evacuate.

“I’m trying to see what he’s trying to do,” Vernon said. “He might just stay down there and make sure everything is good with the house.”

Both Smith and Vernon own property that may be impacted by Hurricane Irma.

“I’ve got a house by the water. Hopefully it’s OK,” Vernon said. “My windows are already hurricane proof and everything like that. I’m just praying. That’s basically it and hope for the best…it’s just something that you’ve got to put in God’s hands. It’s nothing you can control. So, you’ve got to let it happen and hopefully it weakens and hopefully it goes a little north and dies out. There’s only being patient and seeing what happens.”

The Giants have a football game to play Sunday night but the threat of Hurricane Irma is more serious than any tackle, field goal, or touchdown. It is natural to be concerned about a storm that some meteorologists are predicting will cause historic damage. The players have a job to do, but their thoughts and prayers will be with those family and friends caught in Irma’s path…just like the rest of us.

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