EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ** - Ryan Nassib will have many new and unfamiliar, yet memorable, experiences Saturday night.
After starting each of his last 38 games at Syracuse, the rookie quarterback will play in relief when the Giants open their preseason schedule against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field. It will, of course, be his first preseason game, since no such exercise exists in college football. But the most significant event will be Nassib's first action in an NFL game.
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"It's something that I've been dreaming about for a long time." Nassib said this week. "Actually having a chance to put on a jersey and have it mean something, to be playing in a game is going to be pretty special. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Nassib said he's usually "a little nervous" before a game, a feeling that disappears on the first series. But that's when he took the opening snap. In Pittsburgh, Nassib will follow Eli Manning and probably David Carr and likely won't step onto the field until the second half. Nassib admits his anxiety could build during the wait.
"I've never gone through this before," he said. "It's going to be interesting, but I hope my number does get called. I'll be ready to go."
His play in practice indicates he should be. Nassib has received favorable reviews from coaches and teammates who have praised him for everything from how rapidly he learned the offense to his throwing accuracy.
"(He is a) young guy with a lot of ability that's trying to fight his way through all of the learning," coach Tom Coughlin said.
"I've been really impressed with Ryan's work ethic," quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said. "He's in our meeting room constantly. I've been impressed with his note taking, his studying of the film and really trying to understand concepts. What I mean by that is not memorizing things, but understanding that we're doing this because of this reason. 'This play is designed to attack this coverage' and I think he's done a good job of grasping that. He's got a strong arm. We knew that going in and I think with him getting more comfortable with the concepts he is going to start to show more in terms of his accuracy."
In addition to the interaction he has with his coaches every day, Nassib has soaked up every tip offered by Manning, Carr and Curtis Painter.
"He throws the ball well," Carr said. "I think he's got good mechanics, and he wants to learn. I think that's the most important thing, honestly. You get young guys in here sometimes, not necessarily at the QB position, but they don't care to learn. They're going to rest on their athletic ability. It's not like they don't want to do it, it's just in their nature. Ryan's not that way. He's taking good notes, writing stuff down; he doesn't necessarily make the same mistake twice. I think that's the key."
Nassib has always been a student of the game – not to mention a good student. He was a four-time Big East Conference All-Academic Team choice who earned his undergraduate degree in finance. On the field, Nassib won 21 games and led Syracuse to two bowl games in his three seasons as the starter. He also completed 791 of 1,312 passes (60.2 percent) for 9,190 yards, 70 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
The fourth-round draft choice said he has had an easier time learning the offense with the Giants than he did at Syracuse.
"I came from a high school where we ran the wing-T option stuff, so drop back passes and protections were non-existent," Nassib said. "Going to Syracuse and learning that offense was a little bit much, because I had to learn all of that. Here, at least I had a basis of what to expect. There's been some carryover, but I feel like I have a better football mind now than I did when I was a freshman in college."
Nassib has had a heavy workload in training camp. Manning receives his full complement of reps and the coaches want to let Nassib get a lot to accelerate his development. Carr and Painter split the rest.
Every Nassib throw is quickly critiqued by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who might make a quick point or offer a more detailed piece of advice.
"I can't thank coach enough for giving me the amount of reps that he is giving me so that I can progress and so that I can learn," Nassib said. "I expected a lot less; I thought I was going to have to take more mental than physical reps coming in. They're giving me a great amount of reps for me to be able to learn it in action."
The real action for Nassib starts tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. Several members of his family, including his parents, will make the trip from the Philadelphia area for his pro debut.
"It's always fun to go out and play against somebody who's not on your team," Nassib said. "When you play against your defense, you're happy that they're doing well, but you're unhappy that we can't execute against them. At least we're playing another team. If we both are doing well, it's a good thing. But right now I'm excited to get out there and play somebody else."
And the Giants are eager to see how he performs.