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Giants’ Nick Gates talks picking on Aaron Donald, steer-wrestling mishap


Giants’ Nick Gates talks picking on Aaron Donald, steer-wrestling mishap

Giants center Nick Gates snaps up the chance for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Describe your emotions when you went undrafted in 2018?

A: That one hurt. I left school [Nebraska] thinking I was going to at least be picked up by somebody. That day was a rough one, I’ll tell you that. I think about it a lot. My family and me think about it a lot, we talk about it sometimes. … Things are meant to happen. If I didn’t go undrafted, I wouldn’t have got this extension [two years, $6.8 million] I got the beginning of this year. God does certain things in mysterious ways, and it works out. You just got to follow your path and keep going.

Q: Where were you during the draft?

A: I was actually at my aunt’s house. I knew I wasn’t going Day 1 and most likely knew I wasn’t going Day 2. But that third day, I was fully expecting to get a call, and didn’t. We were doing family dinner that night. I didn’t get the call, and I just got up and left the house, and I drove around for probably 30 minutes, went to the gas station by myself and tried to just relax and get away from everybody.

Q: Did that give you a chip on your shoulder?

A: It definitely sticks with me. It helps me stay humble. It’s always in the back of my head. When I think I’m getting too up on my high horse, I’m like, “Oh no, dude, you’re undrafted, you still got to work your butt off.” I still feel like I have to go out there and prove myself.

Q: How do you like playing in the New York area?

A: I love it out here. I actually grew up hearing about this all the time because my aunt [Linda] grew up in Clifton [N.J.], which is right down the street, and I was living there for a little bit so she actually loved that. I went to the deli she used to go to, went to the bagel place she always used to go to and the pizza spot. It was kind of a weird kind of deal.

Q: What was it like playing with Eli Manning?

A: That was cool. The last start of Eli’s career, future Hall of Famer, it was one of my starts I got to play in, so I got to tell my grandkids that. Eli always kept his composure in the huddle. … He was a good guy.

Q: How does Daniel Jones compare in the huddle to Eli?

A: Daniel keeps his composure really well. It doesn’t matter if things are going good or things are going bad, he’s gonna be the same guy.

Q: How would you describe Daniel’s leadership style?

A: Daniel’s a damn good leader. It seems like he knows like the perfect times when he has to speak up and get everybody going. I think that’s just something you have inside of you.

Nick Gates
Nick Gates jumps into the arms of a Giants coach.Getty Images

Q: What is the most fiery you’ve heard him or seen him?

A: I can’t remember which game — “All right guys, c’mon, let’s go, we got to get this in, we got to score points, we got to help the defense out, we got to start clicking.” We drove down that series and scored. He knows how to pick and choose when he has to get after us.

Q: What is so great about a pancake block?

Q: Just being able to push somebody else into the dirt and just finish him. It’s something hard to explain, it’s kind of like a feeling. You just feel good after you do it.

Q: How many did you have at Nebraska?

A: We kept track of ’em in college on a board. Two out of the three years I won it.

Q: Do you remember your first pancake block in high school?

A: I get up on a linebacker, and I drove him like 15, 20 yards down the field and just finished him right on our sideline. That was a fun one.

Q: Describe your on-field mentality.

A: Aggressive, tough, I like getting after people and try to just like impose my will and things like that.

Q: In other words, you flip a switch.

A: You can’t be passive on the football field. You got to show ’em and you got to hit ’em in the mouth.

Q: How does playing center compare to steer wrestling?

A: I did it one time, and I busted my lip and I’ve never done it again. You’re supposed to keep your head up when you do it, I had my arms around his horns and I like leaned my head a little bit too far, and the steer twisted his head and hit me in the lip, and I had to get eight stitches or something like that.

Q: Why do you enjoy center?

A: The nice part about it is there’s not a lot of space like there is at tackle. You have a guy on both sides of you, so it’s not as easy to get beat clean as it is at tackle.

Q: What is the hardest part of playing center.

A: The mental load on the center is tremendous. You have to know basically everything the quarterback knows when it comes to people in the box … getting everybody on the same page.

Q: Describe Giants offensive line coach Marc Colombo.

A: He was a tough guy when he played. He was a hard-nosed, kind of like an a–hole when he played. It’s awesome, I feel like I kind of play the same way. I think that’s why me and him get along so well and relate.

Q: Are you an a–hole on the field?

A: A little bit. You try to get the last shove in there after the plays and try to make guys quit almost and just keep going. Being annoying and keep pushing and pushing and pushing, and sooner or later they’re going to quit or they’re going to turn over or they’re going to ease away from it.

Q: You’ve seen clips of Colombo play?

A: Oh yeah, JG [Jason Garrett] was his offensive coordinator, some of the plays that we go over, he’s in there playing, and you can see him getting after it, pushing guys after the play, shoving here, shoving there. There’s videos online of him, too.

Q: Did he ever talk about Bill Parcells?

A: Oh yeah, all the time. He loved Bill.

Q: Describe coach Joe Judge.

A: I think Joe Judge is an awesome head coach. He knows how to push guys, but he also knows how to take care of you.

Q: Dexter Lawrence.

A: Oh, he’s an animal. By the time he’s done, he’s going to be in a Pro Bowl or two … at least.

Q: Leonard Williams.

A: Same thing on him. He’s an animal, too. He’s almost unblockable. He’s disruptive.

Q: Dalvin Tomlinson.

A: He’s one of the hardest people I’ve had to reach, like on an outside zone. He’s almost impossible to reach.

Q: Andrew Thomas.

A: His athletic ability is off the charts. He can do some crazy stuff. When he has a great set and good timing, he’s almost unbeatable.

Q: Who’s nastier: you, Shane Lemieux or Will Hernandez?

A: We all like to get after people and all like to kind of make people quit. I think the three of us feed off each other, our energy helps each other to keep going. I can tell you when Shane was in there against Tampa Bay, he was trying to kill people and get some knockdowns and stuff like that.

Q: If you could test your skills against any defensive player in NFL history, who would it be?

A: Jared Allen. He was always fun to watch, he had a mullet, just a tough-nosed guy, ran his mouth a little bit. Blocking him for a play or two would be fun.

Q: Do you run your mouth when you play?

A: Just a little bit.

Q: Are you good at it?

A: I just say some stuff that just comes to mind, I don’t know if it’s good or not, but it makes the game more fun.

Q: Why would anyone in his right mind try to pick on Aaron Donald like you did?

A: I didn’t mean to, it just happened. It’s part of the game, two going head-to-head, hitting each other every play, and things are just being said play after play, and sooner or later it just happened.

Nick Gates
Nick GatesCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: Who are athletes in other sports you like?

A: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada. I grew up and I loved the Yankees. Everything in my room was Yankees.

Q: Why the Yankees?

A: Vegas didn’t have a team. I just think the Yankees were good back when I was growing up in the early 2000s.

Q: Have you gone to a Yankees game since you’ve been a Giant?

A: I actually haven’t. I really wanted to go to the old Yankee Stadium before it got closed, but that didn’t happen.

Q: If you could pick the brain of any offensive lineman in NFL history, who would it be?

A: Travis Frederick.

Q: What do you remember about Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett from the 2016 Music City Bowl?

A: Oof. That was a rough one, for sure. That was probably my worst game in college. Hands down.

Q: You did better against Nick Bosa?

A: I think I played Barnett first, and he kind of taught me a lesson.

Q: How did you get the nickname “King Smooth”?

A: Some of the older guys came up with it back in college, I think it was my second year there. They kept on calling me Smooth and it kind of stuck.

Q: You threw a 92 mph fastball in high school?

A: Yeah, it was like 92, 93 that’s where I topped out at.

Q: Do you miss pitching?

A: I miss playing baseball, to be honest with you. I loved playing baseball. I played ever since I was like 3, 4 years old. I was playing with the 9-year-olds when I was like 4 or 5 years old. I was always so big and they always moved me up.

Q: No one checked your birth certificate?

A: My dad used to get pissed about it because people would be like, “Oh, check his birth certificate, he’s older than he is,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Q: Who are your favorite pitchers?

A: Roger Clemens … Randy Johnson was always fun to watch. The tough, hard-nosed kind of guys that are going to go right after you.

Q: Kind of the way you play football now, right?

A: Exactly.

Q: Your older brother Matt roughed you up growing up?

A: I had two older cousins, too. They always picked on me, so I had to be tough.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Derek Jeter, Morgan Waller, Leonardo DiCaprio.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Sandlot.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Leonardo DiCaprio.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Margot Robbie.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Sushi.