At 6-foot-8 and 325 pounds, Nate Solder cuts an imposing figure. Yet he's one of the more soft-spoken hog mollies you'll come across. The two-time Super Bowl champion prefers to let his play do the talking for him.
"I try to stay pretty quiet, that's just how my personality is kind of wired," Solder said before the start of OTAs. "I just want to listen, I want to learn how guys are doing things, I want to pay attention to what my coaches tell me to do. I don't think that there's always a place to just come in and push your way around, I think that you just do the best that you can with what you've got."
Giants head coach Pat Shurmur couldn't agree more.
"He's a true professional," Shurmur said. "We talk often about leadership and I've said it before and I'll say it again, you don't have to be anything extraordinary and you certainly don't have to be the loudest guy in the room. Sometimes the guy that doesn't say as much leads better than the guy that talks a lot, and Nate is a very steady force."
Solder signed with the Giants this offseason after spending the first seven years of his career in New England. The Denver, Colorado native has played in 98 regular-season games with 95 starts – 81 of those at left tackle protecting Tom Brady's blind side. He's played in four Super Bowls, winning two (XLIX and LI).
Now, as a member of the Giants, Solder is tasked with keeping Eli Manning upright, along with the rest of Big Blue's revamped offensive line. In addition to signing Solder, the Giants also added guard Patrick Omameh in free agency and selected guard Will Hernandez in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Ereck Flowers has moved from left tackle to right tackle.
"We've been working hard," Solder said. "We've gotten a lot of improvement. We have a long ways to go and we've just been chopping wood every single day, trying to get better."
Chemistry is key in the NFL, especially on the offensive line. Despite so many new faces, not to mention a new head coach (Shurmur), new offensive coordinator (Mike Shula) and new offensive line coaches (Hal Hunter and assistant Ben Wilkerson), Solder says the guys in the trenches gelled well this spring during OTAs and minicamp.
"We all get along really well," Solder said. "Even the first group, second group and third group. Good people that care, try hard, are engaged in meetings, and are engaged out here on the field doing the best that they can."
Even though he's a newcomer to the Giants' offensive line room, Solder's experience and championship pedigree suggest he'll be looked at as the de facto leader of the group. That just comes with the territory when you play in seven consecutive AFC Championship games. Being as humble a guy as he is, Solder doesn't really think about that kind of stuff.
"I don't look for opportunities to be a leader," Solder said at last month's Giants Town Hall for season ticket holders. "I just look for opportunities to help improve the team and whatever I can do and whatever facet that is. If it's staying after for five more minutes and go through a couple bag drills, whatever it is I'm really here to serve the guys and help whoever I can."
Perhaps the player most impacted by the acquisition of Solder is Manning, the two-time Super Bowl MVP who defeated Solder's Patriots during the latter's rookie season in 2011. Having played behind the likes of Shaun O'Hara, David Diehl, Chris Snee, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie, Manning knows a good hog molly when he sees one.
"Nate is obviously a tremendous player, but he gets it," Manning told Bob Papa and Charlie Weiss on "The Opening Drive" on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week. "He just gets it. He knows how the offensive line is supposed to work together as a group, has them in there early, has them eating lunch together, has that bind that I always thought was the most important with the offensive line."
With training camp right around the corner, Solder's goal is simple: take things one day at a time, and be the best player he can be. A simple message from a soft-spoken guy.
"I just think that should be everyone's goal, to be the very best that they can be every single time they step out there," Solder said. "That's what I want to do."