In some ways, New York Giants second-round pick Will Hernandez is like any other fresh college departure, just a regular 22-year-old excited about a new job.
“Right away the city took me by surprise and how cool it is around here, how nice everybody is,” Hernandez said about his New York arrival.
That starstruck, youthful persona, however, disappeared as soon as Hernandez crossed the river into East Rutherford, New Jersey.
“As soon as I got into the actual facilities and I got people telling me where to go and what to do and it’s like, ‘Alright I’m back. It’s football time again’,” Hernandez said. “I’m definitely excited.”
The guard’s instant mood swing is exactly what the Giants are looking for in their hog mollies: a sense of intimidation that’s been missing from the offensive line for some time.
Little more needs to be said about the team’s offensive line problems in recent years, but the handling, or lack thereof, reached hysterical levels last offseason after the team mostly ignored their problems on the line in the offseason, the subsequent collapse sparking the fire that burned the Giants’ 2017 season to pieces.
Now, set to kick-start an offense that hasn’t scored 30 points in over a calendar year, Hernandez wants to bring a sense of dread back to the unit.
One would think that wouldn’t be too hard with Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley, among others, on the roster, but general manager Dave Gettleman has spent his tenure in the Giants’ office hoping for the “hog mollies” to dictate the offense’s success.
Hernandez describes himself as a “nasty” player, and while the word instantly brings about negative connotations, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to the UTEP alum.
“I think every player should be referred to as (nasty). If you’re a football player you should be referred to a nasty, on the edge player. I think that’s how everyone should play,” Hernandez bluntly said. “I think that’s the reason why this sport is so popular and yeah, I definitely consider myself that and I think that everybody should be exactly that.”
Head coach Pat Shurmur remarked that he wants his rookies to have a dignified manner about them, a way where, in Shurmur’s words “‘please’ and ‘thank you’ work.”
Eager to make a good first impression, Hernandez is on board with it.
” I don’t purposely try and change, but just as soon as that helmet comes on it’s just a completely different mindset,” he said. “I can say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ on the field too, maybe after I’ve done my job, but there’s definitely a difference there.”
Expounding on further similarities, Hernandez would later comment the only true difference between his college and pro mindset would be the color of the helmet that protects said mind, as he’ll be switching from Miner orange to Giant blue.
“I started looking at it for a little while because it was the first NFL helmet that I every held in my hand, so that was pretty cool,” he called. “As soon as it came off, same thing. Nothing has changed – come out here and play with the same intensity that I always did.”
Before reporters descended on Quest Diagnostics Training Center, Hernandez was one of the first rookies to ink a deal with the Giants, with fellow draft picks Lorenzo Carter and Kyle Lauletta joining him.
The Giants hope he’ll become Eli Manning’s personal body guard for the rest of his career, but also for his fellow newcomer Saquon Barkley. Hernandez first met Barkley at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the pair have spent little time in getting into character for game day.
“I just try to tell him to follow me wherever I go,” Hernandez said. “I’ll wait for him to get his food and then he’ll walk behind me. Yeah, I’m trying to get used to it!” Perhaps striking fear into reporters everywhere, Hernandez said his following knows no boundaries, telling the media “He would have to talk to you behind me” in the event of a solo interview.
Barkley bodyguard could be only one of Hernandez’s potentially numerous jobs around the Giants’ facilities. Listed as a guard, it’s undetermined whether he’ll play the left or right side. Shurmur implied a preference to the left side, where Hernandez primarily played in El Paso, but promised a summer education for the rookie.
“He’s played a lot of snaps at left guard and we’ll look at him there primarily, but anybody working and guards have to play on both sides, especially young ones,” Shurmur said. “That’s part of a guard learning it the right way. He’s going to have to take reps on both sides.”
It shouldn’t be a problem for Hernandez, who is willing to take any job the Giants give him…literally.
“I’ll play wherever the coaches want me to play. I’m here to help out the team in any way. If they want to put me at kicker, I’ll kick the ball, I did play soccer a little bit so I can help there,” said a smiling Hernandez. “But no, wherever the coaches want me, that’s where I’ll be.”
(Top photo courtesy of UTEP Athletes.)