Shane Lemieux closed his career at Oregon with 52 consecutive starts, bringing a remarkable feat of durability and grit into the NFL.
The New York Giants' fifth-round draft pick was asked during a Zoom conference interview Tuesday if he could recall how many snaps he missed over his four-year college career, and, of course he knew:
During his sophomore year in a game against Wyoming, Lemieux said he had to go to the sideline for one play because his shoe came off. In terms of durability with respect to his new franchise, Lemieux is essentially the Eli Manning of offensive linemen.
So it's no surprise when discussing the offensive lineman he appreciates most, not only does Lemieux mention recently retired All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda of the Ravens, but the praise offered had everything to do with his toughness.
And that toughness, in Lemieux's mind, was crystallized by the time Yanda refused the trainer's cart and instead walked off the field and into the locker room on a fractured ankle during the 2017 season.
"I was always told as a young player, especially from my coaches at Oregon, that you're an individual and you play like Shane Lemieux, you don't play like anybody else," Lemieux said.
"But, obviously, there are really great role models in this game, and I think the one that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda. ... People that take a lot of pride in the position, people that work really hard are guys that I really want to look up to, but not necessarily who I want to play like."
The 6-foot-4, 316-pound Lemieux had the same home at left guard for his career at Oregon, but since his final season ended, he's been trying to expand his repertoire. He's done a lot of work to show he can be a viable option to transition to center in his career, and it just so happens the Giants have a potential opening at that position.
"Shane’s a guy, he plays with nasty," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "You turn the Auburn game on and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around. You can’t help but watch him. In a lot of crossover tape, he jumps out at you as well."
Lemieux, 22, is not a finished product, and he's far more accomplished as a punch-you-in-the-mouth in the run game. His pass protection is going to need fine tuning, and ultimately, he could be a great student for offensive line coach Marc Colombo and assistant Ben Wilkerson. There is enough to work with, and Lemieux appears to have a willingness to adapt his game to what the Giants ask him to do.
"I think I'm an offensive lineman. That's what I'm coming in as," he said. "I'm a football player who plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to best help the team, that's where I'm gonna go."
Lemieux insists he embraces a simple mantra adopted from Mario Cristobal, his coach at Oregon, and there's no question Judge will applaud the approach.
"Do the work before doing the talking," said Lemieux, who earned a degree in criminal law last spring. "I think that's a really important piece [of advice] that taught me to how to be a pro."
Lemieux has been working in Arizona at the offensive line training facility built by former Pro Bowler turned private coach LeCharles Bentley. The same group, Lemieux included, has been training together for four months, practicing social distancing while honing their technique, hitting the weights and going through drills.
The two-time All-American jumped into drills to take snaps in practice throughout his college career with the notion that, the more you can do, the more valuable the player.
Lemieux has been prepping for the NFL with as much of an emphasis at what would be a new position at center: not just the stance and the snaps, but the footwork and the responsibility of making line calls and knowing the opposing defense and tendencies.
"You want to be the best player you can be, and the best player you can be is somebody you can throw into any position and be ready to play," Lemieux said, adding: "I think I'm a natural offensive lineman where I can play any position. Obviously there's techniques and differences with every position. There's set line differences if you're a guard, a tackle, a center, and I think it's the more reps, the more comfortable you are at any position."
Lemieux is not related to hockey great Mario Lemieux, but he does have a funny story about the coincidence and the legacy of his last name with regard to the ice.
"I've gotten that question for a long time. I had a left tackle in college named Tyrell Crosby [now with the Lions], he played right next to me, so it was Crosby and Lemieux," Lemieux said with a laugh, referencing another Penguins star in Sidney Crosby. "And people had a fit with that. I've heard that I wasn't wearing [number] 66, and it's a crime, because I was 68 in college. I've never met another Lemieux that plays hockey, so if somebody sees this, let me know."
This Lemieux has created his own legacy over 3,611 snaps taken since he arrived on the Oregon campus.
"When people ask me who the toughest player on our team is, I say Shane Lemieux," said Oregon tight end Jake Breeland, who signed with the Ravens. "He’s played so many snaps in a row. He comes into treatment while I’m in there and he’s all banged up but he still toughens out practices every week. Seeing that shows me how much he loves the game and how he loves competing and he loves to win, how tough he is. I see that, I’m like, you know what, that’s what I like to see. I’m going to try to be like that."
Oregon teammate Calvin Throckmorton offered this scouting report of Lemieux back at the Combine in February, and the traits match what the Giants love about him.
"[Lemieux is] incredibly powerful, a very strong interior offensive lineman," said Throckmorton, who signed with the Saints. "Takes a tremendous amount of pride in his preparation week-in and week-out learning about his opponent, learning about specifically the players that he’s going to be facing. When he gets on the field, it’s that competitive nature and wanting to finish guys into the ground."
Where Lemieux fits up front with the Giants will be determined later this summer, and Judge promises there is no depth chart, only opportunity to earn a spot.
And Lemieux has no plans of changing a similar mindset any time soon.
"In college, I approached each day as if my job was on the line," Lemieux said. "I think the biggest factor why I never missed a practice and why I never missed a game rep is just because, if I wasn't getting those reps, somebody else was, and I think that's the mentality that's been instilled in me. ... That's just the way I play the game."