EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When Shane Lemieux was selected by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, he knew immediately he'd have to adjust to a new life not only on the field, but off it.
"I'm from Yakima, a small town in eastern Washington," Lemieux said after practice today. "When I was drafted by the New York Giants, I had to really educate myself on the team. Obviously, I watched them play football. I was a big fan of Eli (Manning) and David Diehl and Chris Snee and all of them back in the day. But when I was drafted here, I thought everything was in New York City. So, I'm going from small town, Yakima, Washington to the big city. I was like, 'Oh, is this going to be a big transition?" But I got here, and the staff members and everyone in this building are so tight knit, and this community is awesome. It's been an adjustment period, but it's been nice."
Lemieux continues to ease his way into it.
"I've only been into the city twice," he said. "It's a lot for me. I have a big truck, so it's hard to get around out there and parking is really hard."
The former University of Oregon guard's changeover from west to east has been accelerated on the field. When Will Hernandez was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last season, Lemieux took his place and started the final nine games at left guard. He remains the starter there, an important member of a young offensive line on which so many Giants hopes rest this season. The other starters include two other members of the of the 2020 draft class, tackles Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, center Nick Gates and Hernandez, now the right guard.
Hernandez, who turns 26 on Sept. 2, is the oldest member of the group.
"It's an opportunity where we have five really young guys that can all work together," Lemieux said. "Hopefully, we're all Giants for a long time together. That would be awesome. But speaking now, we know the pressure, everyone thinks we're a young O-Line. We can't listen to the outside noise. We have to just continue to get better. We're all about the same age; it's kind of a cool aspect where we're all friends. It's not like there's the older guy, who doesn't hang out with the younger guys. We all hang out together, so it's a cool relationship."
The tight-knit group remains close off the field.
"We're all kind of the similar in several aspects," Lemieux said. "We're not married yet. We all can hang out on the weekends and we all have similar hobbies. It's nice."
Which is not to suggest it's an idyllic, stress-free life. The linemen are well aware of the skeptics outside the Giants' bubble who say they have yet to prove they can be a top-tier NFL front. That is the "outside noise" Lemieux mentioned.
"That's probably the number one hardest thing to deal with in the NFL, social media," he said. "It's terrible. You try to avoid it. So, during the season, during training camp, I don't even look at my social media justbecause nothing matters outside of this building. But, if coach (Joe) Judge or (general manager) Mr. (Dave) Gettleman says something, I'm going to listen."
Lemieux arrived here with plenty of experience after starting 52 consecutive games at left guard for the Ducks. But preparing for his NFL starting debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers produced thoughts that were both familiar and new.
"I was going to start my first football game in my NFL career and it was Monday Night Football, so it was a big game," Lemieux said. "But, the second thing in my head in that week, in that game, I wanted to make sure that I did the best job for my teammates. I didn't want to make us look bad. That was two different things I battled. When it got to game time, it's football at the end of the day. When the lights come on, you got to be able to play. If you're playing hesitant, you're playing slow, it's going to show."
Lemieux dodged a setback in this camp that first appeared to be worse than it eventually proved to be. On July 29, he was carted off the practice field with a knee injury. But Judge said the next day "the worst-case scenario looks to have been avoided." Regarding Lemieux, he said, "he's kind of like a wild animal. He'd chew his leg off to get through a bear trap if he had to, so him not being out there is kind of driving him nuts."
It was, for a simple reason.
"I like to practice," said Lemieux, who returned to the field on a limited basis on Thursday. "I like to work. I want to get better every single day and I'm just taking it a day at a time."
Lemieux said he was not worried the injury might be more serious than it ultimately proved to be.
"No, it's football," he said. "Stuff happens and I just work my butt off to get better every single day. I might not be out there, but I'm still trying to work."
For Lemieux, that will never change.
Check out the top photos from Tuesday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center