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Shane Lemieux ready to go to work for Giants wherever they put him

Oregon offensive linemen Shane Lemieux blocks for quarterback

Oregon offensive linemen Shane Lemieux blocks for quarterback Justin Herbert on Sept. 21, 2019. Credit: AP/Tony Avelar

Recently retired Ravens guard Marshal Yanda put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career and 13 seasons worth of tape for young players at the position to study. For new Giants offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, there is one moment in all of that footage that stands out the most.

And it wasn’t even a play.

It was from the 2017 game in which Yanda fractured his ankle and refused to be carted off the field.

“I thought that was really impressive,” Lemieux said on Tuesday.

It’s the kind of toughness Lemieux appreciates and tries to replicate in his own game. At Oregon, he started and played in 52 straight games at guard, and other than the end of games that were out of hand, he missed only one snap . . .  when his shoe fell off against Wyoming. He never missed a practice,  either.

“Every single day in college, I approached each day as if my job was on the line,” he said. “I think the biggest factor of why I never liked to miss practice or game reps is because if I wasn’t getting those reps, then someone else was. That’s a mentality that has been instilled in me by the coaches at Oregon, and that’s the way I take the game. I take a lot of pride [in that].”

And now he’s ready to go to work for the Giants. In fact, he was even before he heard his name called.

When they drafted him in the fifth round this past weekend, the Giants spoke about the possibility of moving Lemieux to center. That’s something he started working on himself as his career at Oregon was coming to an end and he started thinking about his future in the NFL.

“I understood that this game is all about versatility, and me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me in the future,” he said. “I don’t really have a position. I just want to be able to go in wherever the coach asks me to . . .  I wanted to be prepared before that happened. Even at my pro day, someone asked me to jump in at center and I was ready to do that.”

If he shows decent enough ability with the ball in his hand, Lemieux could wind up starting at center for the Giants. They are relatively set at guard with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler but are light at center. Spencer Pulley is penciled in at the spot and swingman Nick Gates has snapped a bit in practices. They also are waiting to see how Jon Halapio recovers from an  Achilles tear he suffered in the last game of the 2019 season.

Lemieux is training in Arizona with renowned offensive line coach LeCharles Bentley and a few other NFL players, including former Giants first-round pick Justin Pugh. He’ll soon begin participating in the team’s virtual offseason program, which coach Joe Judge said will include tutorials on playing center.

If Lemieux does step into the Giants’ lineup right away at center, he’d continue his streak of consecutive games. He may wind up having a career like that of another fifth-round offensive lineman the Giants selected, David Diehl. He was not expected to start right away but became an iron man on the offensive line for two Super Bowl runs.

It’s pretty lofty, but Lemieux could even be as good as Yanda.

Not that he’s even thinking about those on-field comparisons. He’d much rather match Yanda's mentality than his play.

“I never really had someone I model my game after,” he said. “I was always told as a young player, and especially by my coaches at Oregon, ‘You’re an individual and you should play like Shane Lemieux; don’t play like anyone else’ . . . People who take a lot of pride in their position, people who work really hard, those are guys that I want to look up to.”

Migrating Ducks. Lemieux wasn’t the first Oregon player drafted by a New York team this month. He followed Sabrina Ionescu, who was selected first overall in the WNBA Draft by the Liberty. “Yes, I do know Sabrina,” he said. “She came in the class after me. Obviously, she is a really talented athlete and an awesome person. Just a fearless competitor. When you watch her play, that’s the first thing you see is that she’s 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 is loving your sport.” . . . Lemieux is a fairly common name in the NHL, but Shane was the first player ever drafted by the NFL with that surname. He said people often pointed out that he should have worn 66 instead of 68 in college in honor of Mario Lemieux. “I don’t think I’m related to them,” he said of the hockey Lemieuxes, “but if somebody sees this and knows we are, let me know.” . . .  Lemieux added that plenty of people had fun with his lining up next to left tackle Tyrell Crosby at Oregon. In either hockey or football, Lemieux and Crosby obviously make for a pretty good line.

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