ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -After the ups and downs - mostly ups - that Domenik Hixon went through last season, it's easy to believe the New York Giants wide receiver and special teams standout when he gushes about how much he's enjoying himself this summer.
``I feel just blessed to be out there running and playing football,'' Hixon said Friday after the first of two practice sessions at the University at Albany. ``I'm trying to have some fun out there.''
The third-year pro out of the University of Akron has turned in a strong first week of training camp, making several nifty catches, including at least two on Friday that drew cheers from the spectators watching 11-on-11 passing drills.
His efforts have also caught the attention of Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who noted Hixon's contributions on special teams.
``The one thing about Hixon is, boy, whatever you ask him to do, he's full speed. He covers kicks full speed,'' Coughlin said. ``That kind of effort is not only a great example for everybody, but it also proves the level of endurance that he has. And his desire is very, very high. He's really performed well.''
Running back Brandon Jacobs likes what he sees so far from Hixon.
``He's a very explosive wideout and the kid is very, very, very talented and I think there's a place for him on this football team,'' Jacobs said. ``He can come in and run great routes and knows the system.''
Listed on the depth chart behind receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, Hixon is getting plenty of snaps with the first offense as the two veterans nurse injuries. The 23-year-old Hixon has fast become a fan favorite at camp, but he said he keeps focused on the job at hand.
``We're going against great DBs as well, so you can't necessarily dwell on what you're doing,'' he said. ``That's over and done with, you have to worry about the next play. You have to keep on punching.''
leg injury.
Hixon stepped in and made the best of the opportunity, returning eight kicks for 221 yards, including a 74-yard return for a score against New England in the regular-season finale.
Hixon followed that up with strong special teams play during the Giants' Super Bowl title run, including recovering a teammate's fumble on a punt return late in regulation in the NFC championship game at Green Bay.
It was one of his special team plays while still with Denver that suddenly put Hixon in the national spotlight last year. During the Broncos' season opener at Buffalo, he was tackled on a kickoff by Kevin Everett. The impact initially left the Bills tight end paralyzed from the waist down.
``When it first happened I was just praying for him,'' Hixon said. ``I wanted him to get better and at the same time I was asked to do a job.''
Everett eventually regained the ability to walk and as his condition improved, so did Hixon's play after he landed with the Giants.
``It seemed like the more he was getting better, the better I was playing,'' Hixon said.
Hixon last spoke with Everett on the phone on Thursday, when they discussed a foundation Everett has launched to help inner-city children in Miami.
``Hopefully I can really help out with that and go and get it kick-started,'' Hixon said.

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