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Avon Old Farms product Michael Cox traded in hockey stick for pads; now he’s a New York Giant

AP Photo/Rick Osentoski AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WTNH)–The practice field at New York Giants training camp bakes in the August heat, resting tranquilly in the shadow of Met Life Stadium and set even further back, the skyscrapers of New York City. It’s like a scene out of a Madden game mode.

Standing on the field, there is no forgetting which city the Giants play for. It’s like a painting–the Empire State building floating just over the horizon, its presence both inspiring and intimidating.

Football players from Ashford to Arizona would give their left knee pad to be here, fighting for a chance to earn a roster spot on one of sports’ most recognizable franchises.

So how in the world does a hockey player from Avon Old Farms end up here?

PHOTOS: New York Giants training camp

“It’s not exactly the usual way to get here,” Giants running back Michael Cox told reporters at training camp. “My whole life seems to be like that. But hey, I’m here.”

The 25-year old was once a nationally known junior hockey star, recruited from his Dorchester, Massachusetts home to play in high school at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut. But once he got there, he decided he wanted to try other sports.

So he took up football as a sophomore, having never played a down of organized ball in his life. He didn’t play much that season–but over the next three years, he compiled more than 2,400 yards–including over 1,000 yards his junior season, when he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry.

He began to earn national acclaim after his junior season, as Scout.com ranked him as the No. 35 running back in the country. Although his senior season was cut short by an ankle injury (he only rushed for 222 yards on 41 carries), he ended up signing on with the University of Michigan.

Again, Cox was banished to the bench, redshirting his freshman year and appearing in just six games over the next two seasons. After he graduated in 2011, Cox decided to use the NCAA’s rule on graduate transfer students, which gives players who have a year of eligibility left to transfer without sitting out a year, to his advantage. He headed back home to play one season with UMass, even returning to Michigan Stadium to face the Wolverines in the team’s third game of the season, a 63-13 loss.

Cox started all 12 games for the Minutemen and rushed for 715 yards and five touchdowns. He was selected by the Giants in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Despite the long odds of making the team as a seventh-round draft pick, Cox again stunned everyone and earned a spot on the 53-man roster. He played in 14 games with the G-Men in 2013, and after a tragic injury to Giants starter David Wilson, will likely get a chance to contribute this season.

“He’s done some nice things,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin told the New York Times.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Cox told the Times. “You learn that it doesn’t always go as planned, but you can always try to make the best of it.”