Early in the spring drills, Will Hernandez was installed as the starting left guard. He might well stay in that position for the next decade.
Hernandez is a rugged run blocker and sturdy pass protector who has started every game and has improved significantly from early in the season to now.
“The way I am, it’s never going to be enough whatever it is that I do or don’t do,” he said. “I always feel like I could’ve done better or done more or done this a little bit better. When I came here I considered myself a raw player - as I consider myself now. I’ve learned so much from this group of guys that have been with me this entire season so far, and I just think how far I’ve come in such a short time. I feel like I owe it mostly to the coaching here and to the guys that are here. I’m learning and learning. The more time I spend here, the more I realize how much I didn’t know back then, so I definitely feel like I’ve progressed. It’s a week to week thing.”
Hernandez is particularly indebted to veteran tackle Nate Solder, a free agent acquisition this year who has tutored the rookie every day.
“First of all, he’s an extremely awesome player,” Hernandez said. “He’s taught me from the first day I stepped foot into this building until today. We were just in meetings today and he was talking to me and helping me out here and there. I’m very thankful for Nate. I think we’ve come a long way since I got here. We went from him teaching me and showing me and what he does and how I should do things and kind of what his ways are to now, communicating with each other and understanding each other a lot better. We feel like we’re clicking all the time from the time we’ve spent together.”
No matter how much help a rookie receives, he still must get out on the field and experience the difference between college football and the NFL for himself.
“I would say in the beginning of the season it started off as (more) mental, because the speed of the game changes from college to the NFL,” Hernandez said. “The speed increases, the power increases, everybody hits harder, everybody is stronger, everybody is faster, so you feel it more the next day. I also feel like everything the Giants have to offer in terms of recovery, nutrition, weight training and everything is just off the charts. When it comes down to it you recover so much faster and so much better and it almost evens out.
“The (NFL) is a lot faster, you have to go through your progressions a lot faster, you have to be able to recognize and anticipate. I was more in the reaction mode in the beginning of the season. Now, the game has slowly slowed down for me. I feel now I’m doing more anticipation rather than reaction. Definitely felt like yeah this year has been great in terms of becoming a better player and contributing.”
And he’s just getting started.