Ray “Whitey” Walsh, left, shown as a child with his father Ray Sr., a former Giants employee, and his brother Chris, recently worked his 39th and final NFL draft for the Giants. / Submitted photo by New York Giants
Things have sure changed since Ray "Whitey" Walsh started working for the football Giants as a ballboy.
Walsh, who grew up in White Plains and graduated from Archbishop Stepinac High, was just a kid helping out his dad, Ray Sr., who was a friend and Fordham classmate of Wellington Mara and Vince Lombardi, and would work for the Giants himself from 1947 until 1993.
In those days, the Giants played their games at the Polo Grounds, and Mara would take Polaroid pictures of opponents' formations from the press box. Once the photos developed, Mara needed to get them to the field. That was Whitey Walsh's job.
The press box hung precariously underneath the upper deck, with a staircase that went up to the roof, then a catwalk to the press-box door, then another staircase into the box. Walsh said it had to be a firetrap.
Anyway, Mara would give the developed Polaroid to Walsh, who would stick it inside a sock, and then he would have to run up the stairs, across the catwalk to the front of the upper deck, and toss the sock down to a member of the team's taxi squad on the field.
"He had to be looking up because I'm in the front of the upper deck and it's an aisle, and there are people trying to watch the game. I had to get the guy's attention, and they'd be saying, 'Hey, get out of the way.'
"All you had to do was flip it off the upper deck. It kind of overhung the lower deck, so there was no danger of it hitting anything else. You didn't want to flip it out too far or it would land in the end zone."
Walsh, now 69, eventually became a scout for the team in the 1970s, and then the team's director of research and development, and last week he worked his 39th and final NFL draft war room. He will retire June 1.
He never gave it an emotional thought, that this was his last draft.
"I had made a note of it," he said. "I knew it was my last one. But, no. We ended up the way we always do. It went the way we thought it would and got the players we wanted. No, never gave it a thought that it was a momentous event, really."
Walsh traveled for most of those 39 years, visited colleges, working a schedule of 11 straight days of scouting, then three days off, then 11 days on, etc. He'd haul a 30-pound, 16mm camera with him on planes. He finally got off the road and behind a desk, in front of a computer, in 2006.
Walsh didn't play football at Stepinac because he was too small — though he thought he could have been the team's punter his senior year, only to have that hope scrapped by a bout with pneumonia. But he's sure had some quietly momentous drafts.
He was responsible, for example, for the Giants' drafting Dave Jennings, the otherwise unscouted punter from St. Lawrence, in 1974. Walsh first discovered him by reading the school's press releases.
He had a big hand in the drafting of Brandon Jacobs, and Ahmad Bradshaw, who declared for the draft after his junior season and wasn't heavily scouted. And he personally saw and recommended all of the Giants' current linemen — though they didn't draft Rich Seubert, instead signing him as an undrafted free agent.
And there were a few that got away, including a particular quarterback who was slated as Drew Henson's backup at Michigan, and became the starter when Henson chose to sign with the Yankees.
"You get to the school and (Henson's) gone and you wonder who the starter's going to be," Walsh said. "It was some guy on the senior list and his name was Brady. I can't imagine how I would be the only one (to scout him). At Michigan? We're talking about Michigan. How could you miss the starting quarterback at Michigan? ... It turns out nobody else wrote (a report on) the guy. It's amazing.
"I thought, we're in the sixth round or whatever it was, and I thought he'd be a steal. But everybody kind of looked out of the corner of their eye because there wasn't any other scout to confirm it."
New England took Tom Brady with the 199th pick of that 2000 draft, after every other team, including the Giants, passed on him for five-plus rounds.
Walsh, who lives with his wife Judith in Ramsey, N.J., hopes to still keep his hand in football with the Giants. He will still go to the games.
The rest is up in the air.
"I think maybe I'll sit around, read the paper, drink coffee, wait for lunch," he said. "They say every day is Saturday when you retire."