CINCINNATI, Ohio — It wasn’t until Sunday morning that former Dartmouth defensive end Niko Lalos got the call. The New York Giants had activated the Class of 2020 graduate from the practice squad for active duty that afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals, becoming the first Big Green alumnus to be on an NFL roster in the regular season since Casey Cramer, Class of 2004 graduate, last played for the Tennessee Titans in 2008.
When the Giants called up undrafted defensive tackle Lalos from their practice squad prior to Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, it looked like just another procedural move in a season chock-full of them amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
That is, until LeBron James gave him a shoutout on Twitter. Lalos’ promotion to the active roster was noticed by his high school alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary, which in turn led to one of its more famous alums, James, to wish the rookie well in his NFL debut.
Expected to perhaps get some snaps on special teams, Lalos found himself in the middle of the action in the final minute of the third quarter. Wearing number 57, Lalos was lined up at left end on a 2nd-and-12 play in the final minute of the third quarter with the Giants clinging to a 13-10 lead. A Brandon Allen pass down the middle of the field was broken up by cornerback James Bradberry and batted back toward the line of scrimmage. Lalos alertly dove for the deflected throw and caught the ball just before it hit the ground for an interception. The pickoff led to a field goal for a 16-10 lead, which proved to be crucial in the 19-17 victory for New York.
The interception was the first for a former Dartmouth player in the NFL since linebacker Zack Walz, Class of 1998 graduate, picked off a pass by Washington’s Jeff George for the Arizona Cardinals on the final play before halftime just over 20 years ago on November 5, 2000, in a 16-15 victory for the Cardinals.
Lalos was a member of the All-Ivy League First Team and the Division I All-New England Team at defensive end as a senior in the fall of 2019 by recording 35 tackles, 10 for a loss, and 5.5 sacks, not to mention a pick-six at Yankee Stadium when the undefeated and 13th-ranked Big Green bested ninth-ranked Princeton, 27-10. The Ohio native went on to play in the Hula Bowl, earning team MVP honors in the game. He finished his career with 59 tackles, 17.5 for a loss, 11.0 sacks, nine passes defended, a fumble recovery and an interception.