Growing up in Los Angeles, my parents are UCLA alums and we had season tickets to UCLA football games. I remember going to games as early as age five. We went to every home game each Saturday and then if they weren’t home and were on the road we’d watch them. On top of that, my dad was a 49ers fan, he’s from the Bay Area, so Sundays were 49ers days. That was my main exposure to football as a kid, it never really crossed my mind that I would ever really play football, because I knew I was too big to play Pee Wee.
When I got to high school, my math teacher was the JV football coach and he saw me the first day of school and asked me to come out for the team. I didn’t play at all my freshman year, my sophomore year I played tight end and a little bit of defensive line on varsity. My junior year is when I started playing offensive line and in the middle of that year is when it all started to click on how to play football.
My dream growing up was always to go to UCLA – it was my parents’ dream too, especially my dad, but UCLA just didn’t do a good job of recruiting. They failed on a lot of key points, so my parents weren’t disappointed I didn’t go to UCLA. My parents were okay with me going to Oregon because of that and I’m very happy I went there. It was a great experience.
Heading into my draft year (2008), I felt that I was the 10th-15th best tackle. My year, we had 10 tackles go in the first two rounds, so I thought I was going to go a lot higher than I did. My agents were pretty honest with me – they said 4th-6th round. As the day went on, that was back when the draft was two days long, just nothing happened and my phone didn’t even ring until the 5th round. I got a couple of calls “We’re thinking about drafting you here, we might draft you,” it was a long day.
Carolina called me (in the 7th round) and I was super relieved. I think I didn’t go as high because I was hurt my junior year in college and I didn’t play very well. It wasn’t really documented that I was hurt, but you can’t use that as an excuse when you play all year with an injury. I played better my senior year but, I think playing in spread offenses hurts offensive linemen. I think if I was in a pro style offense it would have been a little better.
The toughest thing about my NFL career so far has been the constant change. I’ve had five different offensive line coaches in five years in the league (we switched coaches one year in Carolina, then I was in KC, Minnesota and now here in NY). It’s a tough situation when it’s year-to-year changes, but you just adapt, you learn to be flexible with your travel plans, flexible with your living arrangements.
In the facility you just have to come to learn the system, the personality of the coaching staff, of the locker room, and then you just buy into what their system is. It’s really that simple, when you leave you forget it all. I don’t remember much of anything in terms of how we did things in other places. It’s pretty remarkable I was in Carolina for four years and I don’t remember a single play call we had.
When it comes to offensive line play, we know it’s a thankless job. If you’re an offensive linemen you buy into that mentality that you’re not going to get noticed unless something bad happens. When things go well you probably won’t get any recognition.
I like to have people think about this. We’re backpedaling to pass block while a guy who’s a better athlete than us is running full speed at us. That’s the basis of pass protection, it’s a tough job and one that is a lot more mental than physical. There are a lot of offensive linemen that are gifted physically but they don’t pan out because the mental aspect doesn’t work for them. I think that’s one thing that people don’t realize, the talent gap isn’t that large, but the mental side of things some guys are better than others and those are the guys that stick around.
This year with the Giants, we drafted Ereck Flowers and that has really helped at left tackle. Then they moved (Justin) Pugh over there (to the left side). Those two guys are first round picks with a lot of talent and have really settled in to their positions. Weston (Richburg) was always meant to play center (played guard last year because of injuries) he’s done a great job of commanding the offensive line.
Me being back at right guard, where I’ve played most of my career, that’s where I feel most comfortable. Through training camp I was coming back from my injury, still working through my injury and have just been getting more and more comfortable as this season goes on. Marshall Newhouse at right tackle has played 6 years in the NFL so all of us working together, we didn’t get to do that much in the off-season, we’re just getting better every week.
Personally, I want to be a Pro Bowl player, that’s what I strive for. I want to keep playing as long as possible. I want to get to 10 years because that’s always been my goal even as a young player. It’s just a nice round number. Anything more than 10 years is obviously gravy.
I’m also at a point in my career now where winning a Super Bowl is the number one priority. I’m tired of being in the playoffs and not winning or being on teams that aren’t very good. You get to a certain point in this league where everything else doesn’t really matter it’s just all about winning a Super Bowl.