Nate Solder was brought here to help turn around the fortunes of the Giants. After mismanaging their offensive line and missing the playoffs in five of the past six seasons, the Giants needed to start over with their group up front. Solder, who was signed away from the Patriots as a free agent this past week, was the first significant piece of that rebuild.
But that’s not why he thinks he’s here.
That’s not why the left tackle thinks he’s become the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.
And that’s not why he and his family are embracing the move from New England to this area.
If Solder is going to be the savior of anything, he doesn’t want it to be the Giants. He’d rather it be others.
“I think it’s a shame on me if the money only helps the Solder family,” he said on a conference call shortly after he inked the four-year, $62-million contract. “My belief is that this money has been entrusted to me not for personal comfort and security, but for an actual impact that we can have on our community and the people around us.”
That belief is grounded in a strong faith that has carried him through some difficult times, including a diagnosis of testicular cancer in 2004 and, more recently, his son Hudson’s diagnosis of kidney cancer.
Both he and Hudson are doing well now — the 2-year-old has one chemotherapy treatment left and doctors are optimistic he will not need any more — which means it is time for the Solder family to refocus outward.
“If we joyfully look forward to the momentary impact for the New York Giants, a lifetime of impact on our communities and an eternal impact for the kingdom of God, me and my family could not be more thankful and excited, so it’s just a great time,” he said. “It’s nothing about us having a bigger house, a nicer car, anything like that. So like I said, shame on me if it’s just about us.”
The Giants, of course, see it somewhat differently. They hope Solder will not only stabilize the offensive line but have some of the magic Patriots dust he’s been sprinkled with during his seven years in New England rub off on his new teammates.
“The biggest thing about winning as a player is understanding what it takes to win,” general manager Dave Gettleman said, “and the understanding that the guys on the other side of the field are getting paid to play, too. That is one thing that Nate definitely understands. The Patriots have a very demanding culture up there, which we’re going to have as well. So it won’t be any surprise to Nate. At the end of the day, he certainly can show people what is required, the preparation and the work to win.”
Gettleman has made no attempt to hide his love of big, tough offensive linemen. He calls them his “hog mollies” and stressed their importance in winning football games in nearly every conversation he has. So the funny thing about his signing of Solder as the Hogfather is that Gettleman probably would not have selected him when he came out in the 2011 draft.
Back then, he was too lanky and skinny, a tight end who had converted to tackle at the University of Colorado. The Patriots did draft him in the first round and that worked out pretty well: 98 regular-season games with 95 starts plus 16 playoff games. The Patriots reached the AFC Championship Game in each of Solder’s seven seasons.
“He’s thickened up,” Gettleman said. “Coming out of Colorado back seven, eight years ago, he was more of a linear guy, but he’s grown physically and he’s matured physically.”
So is the 6-8, 325-pound Solder a hog molly?
“Yes,” Gettleman said. “Yes he is.”
Meanwhile, Solder is focused on things beside football right now.
“My priority is just getting the family moved to where they can be situated and they can be OK,” he said, noting that his wife’s family is from Southbury, Connecticut, which is about an hour or so away from MetLife Stadium.
In a few weeks, though, that will change. He’ll come charging into the Giants’ facility with the rest of his new teammates when the offseason training program begins on April 9, and he vowed to be at every OTA this spring.
Even in that capacity, though, Solder does not see himself as shouldering the entire responsibility of fixing the offensive line.
“I don’t think one particular player is going to change the whole thing,” he said. “I’m going to worry about one thing, and that’s taking care of my business. I’m going to do the best I can to play football, love all my teammates, do the best I can in everything that I do, try to improve every day — and I don’t put any quotation marks around that. That’s just the way that I’ve done it before and that’s the way that I’m going to do my best to continue to do it.”