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Donte Rumph, humiliated on ‘Hard Knocks’ while with Falcons, invited by Giants to rookie minicamp

Mr. P

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The last time the world saw Donte Rumph, his pain and his shame were laid bare for HBO’s cameras. He was an unwitting star of last summer’s “Hard Knocks” series from the moment his defensive line coach nicknamed him “Cupcake.” Eventually, to no one’s surprise but his own, viewers watched as he was cut.

When the cameras stopped following, though, Rumph’s story got much worse. But now, as the 25-year-old emerges from the “dark depression” he fell into in the ensuing months, he’s so desperate to get back into the NFL that two weeks ago he literally camped out in front of the Atlanta Falcons’ door.


He still resides in that “Tent of Faith,” which is now on private property in Lawrenceville, Ga., after he was chased away by Falcons security and the police. But he’ll be leaving it behind this weekend to attend the Giants’ rookie minicamp in New Jersey in a longshot attempt to make the team.

“The ‘Tent of Faith’ is supposed to illustrate strength and courage and being positive regardless of what anybody tells you,” Rumph told the Daily News. “So I don’t care what anybody tells me. I’m going to fulfill my dream and I’m going to try my hardest to fulfill my dream.

“And I’m not giving up.”

He hasn’t yet, which is remarkable considering the turns Rumph’s life has taken since the 6-3, 320-pound defensive tackle left the University of Kentucky one year ago.

His “mind-blowing” experience of getting invited to Falcons camp took a very public turn for the worse when Bryan Cox, the former Jet and the Falcons’ line coach, began giving Rumph a disturbingly hard time in practice. Rumph became a punchline when he hyperextended his elbow and Cox branded him “Cupcake” as Rumph writhed in pain.

But that wasn’t the worst part of his “humiliation.” The worst came after he was cut and his agent stopped answering his calls, texts and emails. He didn’t know where to turn, how to find his next NFL opportunity. And suddenly a kid who was abandoned by his mother at birth (and raised by his grandmother) was overcome by feelings of abandonment again.

“I was like ‘Wow. Why me? Why am I not good enough for anyone?’ ” Rumph said. “It just caused me to doubt myself, put myself down. It was just like a downward spiral. I fell into a depression stage where I just kind of lost contact with the world and just kind of lost myself.”

It was through his faith and the strength of his fiancée, Jessica Love, that he said he eventually found himself again and rediscovered his passion for football. And that’s when he came up with an idea to get the Falcons’ attention. With the help of friends, he produced a video for YouTube that reintroduced him to the world. And then he set up his “Tent of Faith” on the Falcons’ property in Flowery Branch, Ga.

Ten minutes later, a Falcons official came and asked what he was doing. “So I told him the whole situation,” Rumph said. “He was completely supportive, and he said he would reach out to one of the head scouts so we could sit down for a discussion. Shortly after that, that’s when five or six cop cars showed up.”

He and the police reached a compromise to move his tent to a park across the street, where he lasted four to five days before the authorities were called to move him again. Five minutes after he packed up the “Tent of Faith” again, he said he got a call from the Jets.

“It’s like God tells me ‘Don’t worry, I got you,’ ” Rumph said.

His tryout with the Jets in the days before the draft didn’t earn him a contract. But soon, local news outlets began telling his story. By that time, he said, he had been abandoned by a second and third agent and was totally on his own as he tried to restart his career. But he had hope that the attention he generated would reach some NFL front offices. Then on Monday, both the Raiders and Giants called.

Rumph knows there will be dozens of tryout players at Giants camp, and maybe one or two might get a contract. But he’s refusing to quit because quitting is not what the “Tent of Faith” is all about. “It’s like my grandmother always told me, ‘Baby if you want something, you have to claim it and it’ll happen,’ ” Rumph said. “I’ve had that in my head for over 20 years. So we’re camping out to show I’m not giving up on my dream.”



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