EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Cam Fleming is perhaps unique among NFL players in that he majored in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford. That is one reason he had a dream that was unlikely to have been shared by his football brethren.
"I did want to be an astronaut at one point," Fleming said today.
He instead turned to football, which has been very rewarding. An offensive lineman, Fleming started all 39 games in which he played for the Cardinal. The New England Patriots selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and in his four years with the team he played in three Super Bowls, winning two. Fleming played the 2018-19 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, he joined the Giants as a free agent.
It's likely no newcomer is as familiar with his new coaches and teammates as Fleming, because he has worked with so many of them the last six years.
Giants head coach Joe Judge was the Patriots' special teams assistant coach and then coordinator when Fleming was in New England. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was his head coach in Dallas and Marc Colombo will be his position coach for the third consecutive season. Fleming said the presence of Garrett and Colombo was a "big factor" in his decision to sign with the Giants.
"You're talking about two coaches that I've worked with for the past two years," he said. "They know exactly what I can do. They definitely believed in me enough to try to get me with them when they went to the Giants."
Colombo, a lineman for three NFL teams from 2002-11, is large and loud, and a particular favorite of Fleming's.
"I love playing for Coach Colombo," Fleming said. "He's excited about football every day. He comes in with that energy, that big Boston accent. A lot of passion coming out of him. He has a really good focus on technique. He spends a lot of time workshopping us. He does a really good job of fine-tuning. We watch a lot of individual film to make sure that our techniques are where they need to be.
"I think him playing, he knows exactly what it takes to survive in this league. He played a long time. He obviously picked a few things up in his ten-plus years playing professional football. He has a knowledge on both sides that really help."
View photos of offensive tackle Cameron Fleming.
Fleming also enjoyed his time with Judge.
"I remember he was another high-energy guy," Fleming said. "During team meetings, he used to coach the tackling drills and go through it. He just always had so much energy. Obviously, I played a very little bit of special teams, just on the field goal team. I'm excited to be working for him."
The Giants signed former Patriots special teams standout Nate Ebner, who was Fleming's four-year teammate. When New England played Philadelphia in Super Bowl LII, their starting tackles were Nate Solder and Fleming. Now they're reunited on the Giants.
"Nate's a great teammate, he's a great leader, he's able to rally the troops," Fleming said. "He's one of the nicest guys you'll meet. I'm excited to be back with him."
And then there's the Stanford connection. When the season ended, the Giants had two players from the Bay Area academic powerhouse in tight end Kaden Smith and safety Michael Thomas (who is currently a free agent). They've since added three more: linebacker Blake Martinez, tight end Levine Toilolo and Fleming.
"I like that a lot," Fleming said. "High quality athlete and a scholar out of Stanford, why wouldn't you want to load up on those guys if you have the opportunity?"
Fleming, 27, has played in 75 regular-season games with 26 starts and in 11 postseason games with two starts. In the regular season, Fleming has started 10 games at both left and right tackle, five as an extra tackle and one game his rookie season at right guard. Both of his postseason starts were at right tackle.
The Giants' incumbent starter at that position, Mike Remmers, recently joined the Kansas City Chiefs. But Fleming doesn't know where the Giants coaches will place him first.
"In my football career, I played more right tackle," he said "But I think Dallas really made me get comfortable on the left. I went in there, they made sure that I could hold my own on the left, so I feel comfortable on either side. It doesn't really matter to me."
Fleming concedes he needs to find a position, because the opportunity to be an astronaut has passed him by.
"I've been in football way too long," Fleming said. "I'd have to go back to school, be around a lot of the equations and the math and all the stuff that I knew six years ago.
"I was never into the space as much as I was into the aerospace. I really liked planes and stuff like that more than I liked rocket ships. But if I catch a Space X launch on T.V. or something like that, I'll watch it for a little bit. It's still cool to know how all of that works and know all the forces and stuff for a rocket to get up in the air. But I like planes a lot better."
Fleming hasn't given up his dream entirely – perhaps he can be a civilian on the Space Shuttle.
"Outside of being an astronaut, I know it takes quite a bit of money and probably 5 or 10 years," he said. "We'll see. Hopefully I live a nice, long life, and 30 years from now it'll be like taking a plane."