The New York Knicks were Matt Peart's first love after moving from Jamaica to the Bronx, but the Giants ended up stealing his heart. Then they drafted him.
General manager Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge continued restocking the offensive line in the 2020 NFL Draft, taking the "skinny" 6-foot-7, 318-pound tackle out of UConn with the 99th overall pick on Friday night. Born in Kingston, Peart moved to New York as a young child and, through the Oliver Scholars program for high-achieving students, was accepted into Governor's Academy, a boarding school in Byfield, Massachusetts.
"Just watching them on the TV, just the culture and everything the Giants stand for was something that was appealing for me as a young kid," Peart said. "Especially growing up, especially that moment in high school when they had that Super Bowl (XLVI) win my freshman year. That was a very, very fun time for me."
He missed out by a year for the chance to protect his idol.
"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."
Now he will help keep Daniel Jones, Manning's successor, upright.
"[Peart] definitely has a lot of upside," said Judge. "I don't want to say he is developmental, he is developing, and they all are. He's got tremendous work ethic, he's got a great attitude. I think we are going to see a lot better football in the future than we've seen from him already. That's what makes us really excited to work with these guys that we're bringing in."
A quick scan of his player page on UConn's athletics website might lead one to believe there was a mistake in his profile picture. He looks 100 pounds lighter than his listed weight.
"It's rare to describe someone as 315 pounds and skinny, but that's what he is," Judge said. "He's an athletic guy, he has a lot of length to him."
With 36 5/8-inch arms, Peart grew up playing basketball in the Bronx.
"You know, Jamaicans call it 'The Concrete Jungle,'" he said. "So it's easier to pick up a ball and shoot some hoops because there weren't really that many fields open."
It wasn't until he enrolled at Governor's Academy that he was exposed to football. There, he helped his squad win four consecutive Independent School League titles. In the winter, he served as captain of the school's basketball team.
"I feel like when it comes to basketball, you have to have real fine footwork," Peart said. "I really feel like that helped correlate on the field when it comes to football. Being a post player, you have to be able to have good footwork to work in the post. It's just what you have to have. I really feel like that helped me correlate over to football. Just being a tough and dominant player in the post as well helped me be a dominant football player as well."
Peart was the 10th offensive tackle taken in the draft; the first was Andrew Thomas, whom the Giant selected fourth overall. Before the pandemic, the two trained together in Pensacola, Florida, leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine.
"He's an amazing tackle," Peart said. "He's a real true talent when it comes to offensive line play. I definitely picked up some things from him with my time down there. Staying down there with the small time we had, I definitely consider him to be a brother and now he's definitely a brother right now. He can't get rid of me now. I'm looking forward to it and I'm happy he's coming to the city."
View photos of former UConn OT Matt Peart.