On a baking afternoon in the additional anniversary of New York Giants training camp, a agitation break out amid sunbaked reporters afterwards one asks, “How do you say this center’s aftermost name?”
“I’m not gonna try to say it,” comes the aboriginal reply.
“Ha-LAH-pio feels best natural,” addition offers.
“It has to be Pio, because that’s what the added players alarm him,” says a third, and the agitation seems settled.
After practice, aback Jon Halapio hears about the exchange, his aboriginal acknowledgment is to laugh. Then he clarifies: It’s arresting like jalapeno afterwards the n. And assuredly he explains that, in a way, the abashing is a compliment.
Three years ago, Halapio was watching football on TV while he awash acclimated cars in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. Now he’s beholden that bodies are alike aggravating to accent his name—he knows that agency he’s assuredly authoritative it in the NFL.
The Patriots best the 6’3″, 323-pound Halapio in the sixth annular of the 2014 abstract afterwards he’d started 43 of 51 amateur at bouncer at the University of Florida. In that aboriginal training camp, though, he was cut as New England akin its agenda to 53 players. Failing to acquisition addition NFL gig, he spent that October and November amphitheatre in the countdown division of the Fall Experimental Football League, a startup acquisitive to act as a accessory alliance arrangement for the NFL.
For Halapio, it was a abominable footfall down. The football was good—he believed it was bigger to aftermath absolute football band than to accomplish a run at article like the amphitheatre league. But, he says, the alliance alone provided the bald minimum above the boundaries of the field.
“You had to buy your own food,” he says. “They didn’t alike accommodate snacks. My aboriginal year, maybe they had some candy like every third day. Then there’d be the breakfast at the hotel. That was the alone affair that was free, and that was from the hotel—not from them.”
In December of that year, he bent on with the Broncos and survived with them until May. He jumped to the Cardinals in June but was cut in September. Aback he alternate to St. Pete, he accepted addition pro aggregation to alarm appropriate away, but no account came.
With a wife and two kids and bills to pay, he started analytic for approved work. His wife helped him architecture his resume and column it on Indeed.com. “Let’s aloof say,” he says, “there was a lot about football on my resume.”
He said no to a recycling plant, area he’d accept to array through abstracts while continuing 13 hours a day. Eventually, he was set to alpha assignment at a Home Depot aback he got a alarm from Grant Bond, a University of Florida alum who endemic a acclimated car dealership and car rental company. He assassin Halapio on the atom afterwards their interview.
Bond put Halapio to assignment on the attic affairs cars and abaft a board managing some internet business for the rental ancillary of the business. He says Halapio was a accustomed salesman—with one big advantage. “He’s a absorbing guy,” Bond says. “That’s all you charge in sales. And bodies acknowledge abnormally to him because he’s a bigger man. He says, ‘Sign here’ and they say, ‘OK’ and don’t ask too abounding questions. He was a nice, big guy, and that was advantageous.”
At the time, Halapio was about alive two jobs. He would deathwatch up amid 4 and 4:30 to assignment out for 90 account afore logging an eight-plus-hour day at the lot. Then he’d appear home, accept banquet with his ancestors and put in addition cardio conditioning afore activity to bed. Halapio formed adamantine at the lot, but he demurs at the abstraction that he was a abundant salesman. “I anticipate I awash three cars—total,” he says. “And it wasn’t by myself. I reeled them in. Then I’d booty them to my boss, who would absolutely aing the deal.”
In the backward bounce and aboriginal summer of 2016, he started alive out at Northside Christian Aerial School, area above Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott had afresh been brought on as arch coach. Alstott had accomplished Halapio’s adolescent brother at a antecedent aerial academy job, and he capital badly to advice Jon assuredly get a close ballast in football. “It apparently concluded up actuality a little arbitrary to my aerial schoolers,” Alstott says, “because aback Halo came around, I put anybody through the hardest workouts I could.”
Alstott is still old-school, so Halapio spent the aboriginal allotment of his summer affairs sleds and flipping tires. “Was he tired? No question,” Alstott says. “Was he about puking? No question. But he understands—he knows [the NFL is] Not For Long.”
Alstott additionally encouraged him to add snapping to his repertoire. Halapio started with short-snapping, for acreage goals, and best up the new accomplishment quickly. Soon after, he was acquirements the nuances of amphitheatre centermost from his above aerial academy abhorrent band coach, Matt Parker, who now holds the aforementioned position beneath Alstott at Northside.
When Halapio switched agents, the buzz started campanology again, and he ample he’d cast the calligraphy aback he alive with the Patriots for their 2016 training camp. But it was the aforementioned story. He was cut in September. “To be honest, attractive aback now, I adapted to get cut,” he says. “I didn’t abandoned the tank. Attractive back, I ambition I would accept done so abundant more.”
But afore he could put on his polo afresh and acknowledgment to the car lot, he got addition call: The Giants capital him in East Rutherford for a workout. He spent the 2016 division and the aboriginal allotment of 2017 on the convenance squad. But in October of aftermost year, with injuries laying decay to the Giants’ abhorrent line, Halapio was alleged up to the alive agenda and started the final six games.
According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t acquiesce a quarterback sack or hit in 231 snaps as a pass-blocker. In the division finale, with new accepted administrator Dave Gettleman attractive on, Halapio helped accessible up holes for a 154-yard hasty d by Orleans Darkwa. He accustomed the d brawl and, forth with it, achievement that he’d assuredly bent on as an NFL player. In March, he tweeted that he was “humbled and honored” to sign a one-year, $555,000 contract.
This summer, Halapio is aggressive with his associate Brett Jones for the starting centermost spot. And if the aboriginal training affected circling is any indication, he has the high hand. Abhorrent band drillmaster Hal Hunter says he’s been abundantly afraid with how bland Halapio’s move to the average has been.
“I’ve apparent a lot of acceptable abhorrent linemen—you can put a brawl in their hand, and they become…debilitated,” Hunter tells reporters. “But he affectionate of took to it a little naturally, and so we connected to assignment with him there. He’s absolutely excelled at that position. Some guys accept a adroitness for it. To comedy center, you accept to be smart. If you’re activity to comedy center, you’ve got to be boxy because you’ve got some 400-pound guy every distinct breeze appropriate there in your face, and it ain’t easy.”
For Halapio, the better change is not his position but his abode on the abyss chart. Best of the time aback he trots assimilate the field, it’s to breeze to Eli Manning.
“It feels altered this time,” Halapio says. “I’ve never been on the aboriginal team. It’s altered in that aspect, but my mindset isn’t different. I’m still on edge. I could never feel safe because I’ve been cut so abounding times. It’s congenital into me. I apperceive what it’s like to advertise cars instead of comedy football. I apperceive annihilation can happen. But it gives me an advantage—I’m not complacent.”
Bond jokes that aback Halapio retires, he’d be captivated to accomplice with his old agent in addition car dealership. Halapio smiles at the thought, but he’s focused on football for now. And besides, he knows that afore he could anytime alpha such a business, he aboriginal needs to accomplish abiding that bodies bethink his name.
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