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Giants Now (6/10): Chris Peace, Eric Smith take part in NASA program


Chris Peace, Eric Smith take part in three-day NASA program

While the 2020 offseason has been unique to everyone across the NFL, two Giants players were able to enjoy an experience back in February they will never forget.

Linebacker Chris Peace and offensive lineman Eric Smith participated in a three-day NASA program through the NFL Players Association at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"When I was a kid, I was always kind of interested in the stars," Peace told ESPN. "Had a telescope, planets and all that stuff. Real big fan of NASA. So why not, given the opportunity? ... It was a chance to do something different."

Peace and Smith know each other well. The two were teammates for three years at the University of Virginia and lived in the same apartment complex last year in New Jersey. Yet when Smith received the text from Peace asking if he wanted to join him at offseason program at NASA, the offensive lineman was taken aback.

"I was making sure he said it correctly and wasn't talking about something else," said Smith. "I said, 'NASA? Like space?' The inner kid in me was like, 'Oh, hell yeah! Let's do it.'"

The program they participated in was called the NASA Commercialization Training Camp, and they were joined by eight other current and former NFL players. The program introduced the group to NASA technologies and detailed the possibilities.

"The NFLPA externship (temporary on-site training) -- the first year of this NASA program -- involved more than 30 partners and 100 players this offseason," reported ESPN's Jordan Raanan. "Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Josh Dobbs, who majored in aerospace engineering, also participated in a separate program in Florida this year. Six or seven players have already turned NFLPA externships into full-time positions at places such as Fanatics and StubHub."

View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.

Bob Papa believes the offense could 'center around the run'

The Giants' offense will likely get a new look in 2020, as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will control the play-calling.

Garrett's offenses enjoyed tremendous success while he was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Over the last six years, the Cowboys finished within the top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards every season, including four finishes in the top 5. Dallas also ranked in the top seven in rushing touchdowns four of those six seasons.

Bob Papa, the voice of the Giants, joined John Schmeelk on the Giants Huddle Podcast to discuss what the offense could look like this upcoming season.

"I don't think it's any great secret because they've said they're going to run a lot of stuff that Jason Garrett's familiar with and that he ran in Dallas, whether he was the offensive coordinator or as the head coach," Papa told Schmeelk. "I think it will center around the run. Hey remember the Patriots, when they won the Super Bowl two years ago, if you look at what they did in the second half of the season and in winning the Super Bowl, they were a run-heavy team with multiple backs. I think the Giants are going to try to do the same thing.

"The Giants need Saquon Barkley to stay healthy and they need him to be reminiscent of his rookie season. He put numbers up last year, but we know that he wasn't the same player with the high ankle sprain injury. They need him to be the guy that he was as a rookie. Obviously, we talk about this every year, but if Evan Engram remains healthy, and when Evan Engram is healthy, he is the X-factor and this offense looks a lot more fluid. It just opens things up for people... When you have those guys healthy and performing, there are a lot of different ways you can attack a defense."

Things you DIDN'T know about the Giants' 2020 Draft Class

Think you know everything about the Giants' 2020 rookie class? Think again. Here are a few facts you probably didn't know about this year's rookies.

1. First-round pick Andrew Thomas is very musically inclined. The offensive tackle was a member of his high school's concert band at Pace Academy in Atlanta.

"My freshman year in high school I was still in the band, enjoying everything, and my head coach, [former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Patriots] Chris Slade, told me I had a chance to write my own ticket playing football," Thomas said back at the NFL Scouting Combine. "And I loved the game but music was still very important to me and he told me that I have to put my focus on football and that's what I did. I still love music, but I put my focus on football and I'm here now. I was still in it, but I wasn't into it as much as I was. I played the drums in the band but when I went to college I couldn't do that anymore so I transitioned to playing piano. At my high school I'd be at the pep rally and I'd be playing in the band with my jersey on and then I'd go over to the football team and do the football things."

2. Two springs ago, Giants coach Joe Judge, then the special teams coordinator for the Patriots, scouted Xavier McKinney. Judge had an opportunity to pass through the Alabama campus and watch practice. He was there to scout a couple other guys for the draft, but someone else stood out. There was a young player flying around, playing with a lot of passion and energy. It was McKinney.

"There's a number of guys down at Alabama that have a great background on him," said Judge, who won two national championships under Saban before winning three Super Bowls under Bill Belichick. "There are a number of guys on our staff currently that have a great background on the Alabama guys, Burton Burns (running backs coach) and Jody Wright (defensive assistant) were there in recent years. They were there when these guys came in as freshmen, they were there for the progression. As well as making phone calls down to Tuscaloosa, we were able to make phone calls and have staff meetings with guys who had direct relationships with these players and that's a great advantage. … There are certain people in that building, not just the head coach, that you rely on what they say. You know they see them as a person and how they treat everybody. Everyone has nothing but the highest compliments of him as a person and that's what we're looking for. Guys with good character, good traits, that want to come in and want to work and want to earn what they get."

3. Matt Peart grew up a big Giants fan and his favorite player is Eli Manning.

"My favorite player, my favorite Giant always would be Eli Manning, for sure," Peart said. "The man is just tough, tough as nails. I respect his game and I just respect everything he does for the game. You know, he's definitely my favorite Giant, 100 percent."

4. Fourth-round draft choice Darnay Holmes graduated from UCLA in less than three years and plays chess to train his mind. The cornerback picked it up when Chip Kelly, known as an outside-the-box head coach, brought in U.S. Chess Coach Seth Makowsky to work with the Bruins. Originally intended for the quarterbacks, chess fever quickly spread throughout the entire team. For Holmes, it became much more than a hobby.

"I saw several quarterbacks playing chess and I'm the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that's going on," said Holmes, who earned a spot on the Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll in Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019 and Winter 2020. "I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I'm doing, I'm not a piece, I'm a player. I'm going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we're all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do."

Click here for the full list of things you didn't know about the Giants' 2020 draft class.

View photos of the entire 10-member New York Giants 2020 Draft Class


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