The minute Denny Marcin pulls into the Giants Stadium parking lot, he knows he's not in Champaign anymore.
Instead of the scooters and beat-up compact cars that usually dot Memorial Stadium's lots, Marcin's greeted by BMWs and Lexus luxury rides.
As the New York Giants' defensive line coach, the former Illinois assistant is learning all about pro football and the differences from the college game.
Meetings that ran 30 minutes at the UI go two hours in New York. When practice is over, Marcin doesn't make recruiting calls. Instead of grade-point averages, he looks at salary cap numbers.
"And I'm not running into guys on the sideline because we only dress 47 guys," the 55-year-old Marcin said. "There's 11 defensive guys on the field and 11 behind us. That's it."
Those 22 defenders haven't been too bad, but, like the Illini, the defense has been on the field a lot during a 1-3 start and ranks near the bottom of the NFC.
Marcin coached some bigger names during his nine years at Illinois, but he's got some talent on the line. Few probably can name any of the Giants' four starters – Michael Strahan, Robert Harris, Keith Hamilton and Chad Bratzke – but they've helped the Giants rack up the second most sacks in the National Football League.
"Our very first game, we had nine sacks against the Eagles," Marcin said. "The whole line each got a game ball. That wasn't bad for my first game in the NFL."
Hamilton and Strahan are among the NFC's top 10 sackers. Marcin said they've responded well to his coaching. He wasn't sure what to expect at first.
"They've helped me out," Marcin said. "Coming in from college, you hear this is the way it is in the NFL. But it's no different coaching. Players still want to get better. They still make some mistakes. Guys are guys. They want to get treated right and perform well."
Marcin's family has moved to Wayne, N.J. – about a 20-minute drive from Giants headquarters at East Rutherford. He's also had a chance to visit with a member of his old football family.
Kevin Hardy's Jacksonville Jaquars dealt New York its worst loss – 40-13 – in the second week. Marcin talked to his Butkus-winning linebacker after the game, and he'll soon get grilled about another alum: Arizona's Simeon Rice.
"No one's talking about him yet, but we've got them in a couple of weeks (Oct. 12)," Marcin said. "We'll have to see him twice. I've heard all that stuff."
The Giants will see Rice again Nov. 16. Marcin's just hoping to make it through 16 games.
"We're on Game 9 already," said Marcin, counting the four preseason contests. "I told our special teams coach – Larry Mac Duff, who was at Arizona last year – 'A couple more weeks, and we'll be done.' But we've got 11 more yet.
"That part will be really different."
Brian Dietz is a News-Gazette staff writer. His NFL column appears Sundays throughout the season.