When folks around the Giants talk about Will Hernandez, the rookie guard from UTEP who was drafted in the second round, they always point to a bright future.
When asked about him earlier this week, former Giants guard Chris Snee said the player who often is compared to him (and even selected with the same 34th overall pick) has “all the potential in the world.” When he spoke on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio last week, Chris Mara, the team’s vice president of player evaluation, called Hernandez “probably my favorite player in the draft.”
“He comes from the Richie Seubert school,” Mara said. “He’s just a big, tough guy who is going to give you everything he’s got. He’s going to help our running game and he’s going to help our passing game.”
Seubert played guard for the Giants from 2001-10, making 88 starts.
It wasn’t long ago that Hernandez was a high schooler whose family hit hard financial times, had to move out of their house and lived in a relative’s storage shed for two years. He stopped playing football, began working construction to help the family and wondered exactly what kind of life he’d be living. So when Hernandez takes the field for the first time in a Giants uniform on Friday during the team’s rookie minicamp, he’ll be carrying with him a bleak past that he uses to help him push forward.
“If you look at my life then and now, it’s completely night and day,” Hernandez said. “I did go through a lot. A lot of it, I can’t complain too much about it because it shaped me into the player I am today and the person I am today. And honestly, I think if I wouldn’t have gone through all that, I don’t know if I’d be here.”
In an episode of the Facebook documentary “Destination Dallas” that showed various players and their paths to the draft last month, Hernandez was featured and shown returning to the shed, which he said was bought off the lot of a Home Depot. In it was a small bedroom, a tiny kitchen and eating area, and ceilings that were less than six feet high. Hernandez, who stands 6-2, had to crouch to move through the structure.
Hernandez’s family — his parents and his sister — eventually moved back into their home after two years of cramped virtual homelessness. He returned to football as well, playing his junior and senior high school seasons in Las Vegas before accepting a scholarship to UTEP.
At some point in the coming days, he’s likely to sign a four-year contract with the Giants for about $7.5 million, with a little more than half of that in a guaranteed signing bonus. It’s life-changing, not just for Hernandez but for his entire family.
But maybe not as life-changing as that stint in the shed wound up being.
“I’m telling you, it changed me,” he said. “It changed my mindset, it changed my mentality, it completely made me the player I am. I took all of that and took it out on the field. I don’t wish it on anybody, but I’m thankful that it happened.’’