No one has seen the finished product yet with Matt Peart, and that's what excites his coaches, from college to the NFL.
The Giants drafted the "skinny" 6-foot-7, 318-pound offensive tackle out of UConn with the 99th overall selection last month. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Peart moved to New York as a young child and through a scholarship program for high-achieving students, was accepted into a Massachusetts boarding school. He was first exposed to football at the Governor's Academy, where he helped his squad win four consecutive Independent School League titles.
After redshirting at UConn in 2015, Peart started all 48 games in his four-year college career – 24 at right tackle in his first two seasons and 24 at left tackle in his final two years. Randy Edsall rejoined the program during Peart's redshirt sophomore season and discovered that his journey made him the man and player that he is today.
"I just saw a young man that had tremendous size when I first saw him," the Huskies head coach said on "Big Blue Kickoff Live" on Giants.com. "I said, 'Wow, this guy is a big man.' Then, as I continued to watch tape and I got to know him, I found out that not only was he big and had a lot of ability, but he was also just a great kid, had a tremendous work ethic and one who was very coachable."
In his final season, Peart was selected first-team All-American Athletic Conference. He anchored an offensive line that paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in 2018 and another last year. Peart was a team captain in 2019 and an invitee to the 2020 Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
Not bad for a Jamaican basketball player from the Bronx.
"He really did a great job of mastering the fundamentals and the techniques of what it took to be an offensive lineman," Edsall, a former Syracuse quarterback, said of his development. "I think that's first and foremost. Then the second thing is his strength. He got stronger every year, and that has enabled him to be able to play at a better level. I still think moving forward, as I've said to a lot of people when they came through, he has tremendous upside. He's not one of those kids that is maxed out. You're going to be able to get a lot more out of him. If he can stay healthy, he can be a guy who can play 12-15 years in the National Football League and one who's going to be a credit to your locker room.
"He's going to be a leader, he's going to do things the right way. You're never going to have to worry about him, and you're never going to have to worry, 'Is he doing what he's supposed to be doing? Is he going to be in shape? Is he going to be studying the playbook?' All of those things he's done and continues to do and continues to get better at."
After the draft, Giants coach Joe Judge said Peart's athleticism "will lend him to being a swing tackle early on in his career" as he works on both the left and right sides. Peart was the 10th offensive tackle taken in the draft; the first was Andrew Thomas, whom the Giant selected fourth overall.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Nate Solder is the incumbent left tackle, while Mike Remmers, who played the right side for the Giants last season, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. The Giants also bolstered the exterior of their offensive line with the signing of veteran Cam Fleming, who had a previous relationship with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and offensive line coach Marc Colombo with the Cowboys.
"He's going to come in and give it his very best to be a starter," Edsall said. "He'll work as hard as anybody. He'll take the time to master the playbook. He'll do exactly what the coaches down there want him to do in terms of what they want done within their scheme and the fundamentals and techniques. I wouldn't bet against him that he could come in there and win the job. I think it's also a situation where it's a good situation. If there's an opportunity for him to continue to develop and learn, I think that's only going to be that much better. But I know this. Whenever he's earned the right to step in and play, Matt's going to be ready to play."
Meanwhile, Edsall said Peart's best quality was never taking the easy way out. In today's college landscape of players transferring, Peart saw his eligibility through to the end with UConn.
"I think that tells you about the quality of the young man and what the young man really stands for," Edsall said. "When you can find somebody like that and have somebody like that in your organization, to me that's only going to make your organization better. And I think that it also helped Matt and he wasn't going to turn his back. He was just going to continue to do everything that he could to make our program better, and that's what he did.
"Even though he didn't reap the benefits of maybe getting to a bowl game or anything along those lines, he made our program better because of his work ethic, because of his leadership capabilities of sending a message to these kids that if you work hard, you can accomplish your goals. Because who's to say if you go somewhere else, are you going to be first team all-league? Are you going to be invited to the Senior Bowl? Are you going to be invited to the combine? And then are you going to be the third [round] pick, number 99, in the NFL Draft?"