EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shane Lemieux was a one-position player in college, but he is eager to expand his repertoire with the Giants.
The Giants' fifth-round choice in the NFL Draft that concluded Sunday, Lemieux started 52 consecutive games for the University of Oregon at left guard. A bio released by the school included the factoid that he played 3,611 snaps at the position.
But general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge have each stated that Lemieux will be a more versatile player in Giants blue. Lemieux will get a look at center, where the team has several starting candidates and where he has put in some work. And the 6-4, 310-pounder will likely get reps at right guard as the Giants look to build a line that is not only talented and deep, but flexible.
"I understood that this game is all about versatility," Lemieux said on a Zoom interview today. "I think that me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me well in the future. I don't really have a position. I just want to be ready whenever I get in, to be ready to play whatever coach asks me to.
"I think I'm an offensive lineman, that's what I'm coming in as. That's what I have been playing, I'm a football player. I'm a football player that plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to help the team, that's where I'm going to go."
More than just standard rookie-speak, Lemieux will certainly help himself if he puts those words into practice – and games. The Giants look set at left guard, where Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round selection, did not miss a snap his first two seasons. Judge reiterated today in a radio interview that the five best linemen will play. Lemieux will also almost certainly improve his chance to get on the field if he impresses at more than one position.
"Versatility is the biggest factor in this game," he said. "Coaches want to be able to put you in multiple spots. I have really good mentors that told me that at training camp, no matter where you are, they are going to throw you in, and you have to be ready. I just want to be prepared before that happened. Even at pro day, somebody asked me to jump in at center and I was ready to do that. It just all works out and versatility is key."
Lemieux has some familiarity playing other positions. He played both tackles spots at West Valley High School in Yakima, Wash. In college, he practiced at right guard.
"I've been all over," Lemieux said. "I think I don't really have any place where I'm comfortable. I think I'm a natural offensive lineman where I can play any position I'm asked. I think that's just been a lot of work. Obviously, there's techniques and differences between each position. There's set differences if you're a guard, if you're a tackle, if you're at center. I think it's just the more reps, the more comfortable you are at a position. I've taken so many reps over my career, I'm comfortable at any position."
View photos of former Oregon G Shane Lemieux
But he knows the center has unique responsibilities.
"With center, there is a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and be more sound with what's going on around you. Obviously, you have to snap the ball. Those are two of the biggest factors that are different. At the same time, I feel like I am a football player. I've been working at all three positions. I really appreciate the differences in all three of the interior spots and the tackle spots as well. There's obviously little caveats, little differences to everything.
Though Lemieux is confident in his ability to snap, he's never done it in a game.
"In practice throughout my college career, I snapped just to learn," Lemieux said. "I think it would just be good to learn. Ever since, I have been trained at every position. I have even been trained at tackle just to understand the game more and be more versatile. Each offensive line position is a little different, each takes reps to get comfortable. I've been working to get more comfortable with the stance and the snaps. Even at right guard, I haven't played a bunch of right guard, so I am getting better there. I'm probably never going to play tackle but just the ability to get out there even if you have to take a couple reps in practice is great to have."
The bottom line is the Giants want linemen who can play well at numerous positions and Lemieux, the draft's 150th overall selection, intends to be a lineman they can count on.
"Especially as a young player in this league, I think it's the ultimate test to be able to play all the different positions," he said. "I know a lot of offensive line coaches like it. I'm sure these offensive line coaches like it, they talked a lot about it. You want to be the best player you can be. The best player you can be is somebody who can be thrown in at any position and can play.
"I probably never really had a role model or someone I modeled my game after. I was always told as a young player, especially from my coaches at Oregon, you are an individual. You play like Shane Lemeiux, you don't play like anybody else."
That's a good place to start.
*In addition to a player who is versatile, coaches want someone who is durable. Lemieux also checks off that box. He never missed a practice or game at Oregon.
"I remember one game I missed a snap against Wyoming because my shoe came off," he said. "That's the only snap I have ever missed, that was my sophomore year. Ever since then, it was only if we were up big on an opponent."
*Lemieux is the second athlete from Oregon to be drafted recently by a pro team in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Sabrina Ionescu, the best player in women's college basketball, was the No. 1 overall selection in the WNBA Draft, by the New York Liberty.
"I do know Sabrina," Lemieux said. "She came in the class after me. Obviously, she is a really talented athlete, awesome person. A fearless competitor. When you watch her play that's the first thing you see. A competitor who loves her teammates and loves the game of basketball. I think that's the most important part of being a great athlete, loving your sport."