There was a time when Giants second-round pick G Will Hernandez had football as his last priority.
Hernandez' family ran into financial troubles while he was in high school, and he told The Post's Steve Serby in a wide-ranging interview that his first thought was to drop his extracurricular activity, and get a job instead.
"My family was going through some really, really hard times financially, and so my instinct right away was to get a job and help out," Hernandez said.
Times were so tough that Hernandez and his family had to live in what he called a "shed" in his uncle's backyard. Living there for two years in the crammed space, the 6-foot-2, 304-pound guard's mindset on life changed.
"Oh it was horrible," he recalled. "It made me appreciate the small things in life, and things that you normally wouldn't think about appreciating. I appreciated my own personal space. ...the smallest thing like having somewhere to hang your clothes and having your own space to put all your clothes and shoes. Because when we were in that shed, we basically had one of those clothes racks that you see at Ross [Stores] where it's just a big circle. We all hung our clothes all around that, so it was all mixed up there. You didn't have your own space for shoes, they were just kind of all like in a box. So when we got out of there and I got my own closet, I really appreciated that."
Luckily, Hernandez didn't quit football, and has made it his No. 1 priority. Once he signed his rookie deal after getting drafted by Big Blue out of UTEP, Hernandez bought his parents their dream home, which was something he always had on his mind.
His family has always been the one thing that drove Hernandez to perform his best each and every game.
"Definitely my family, being able to help take care of 'em," he said when asked what drives him. "Another one's my team. Just build those relationships through winning and going through hard times and through seasons together. That's what really motivated me to play."
With four NFL games under his belt, Hernandez has been impressive -- so much so that Pro Football Focus graded him the best offensive rookie lineman through September. GM Dave Gettleman referred to him as a "bar-room brawler" when he was drafted, and that old-school style of play has always been Hernandez' thing.
"I just play the game the way I think it should be played," he said. "If that's throwback to a lot of people, we need to go back to those days then. That's just the way I think the game should be played, that's the only way I know how to play it, and I think it's more fun that way."
And being able to bring that style of play to the Giants' line to protect veteran QB Eli Manning is a "huge honor" to Hernandez.
"Blocking for him is a dream come true to me, being able to block for a quarterback like that," he said. "It's such a huge honor, honestly, and I try to go through every day working to get better and do the best that I can in every game because it is really important for me to keep him upright, and it's the sole purpose of why I'm here."
Hernandez' journey to the NFL isn't like many others, but it still has years to go. Only a rookie, the guard wants winning to become a consistent part of his experience, and he hopes Giants fans will always remember him for giving more than 100 percent every snap to achieve that universal goal.
"I want to be remembered as that guy who you can always count on, who you can always know that he was gonna give his full effort, that it wasn't a once-in-a-while kind of guy, that they could always rely on me for what needed to be done on and off the field," Hernandez said. "I also want to be remembered for a guy that never gave the team any trouble, didn't make 'em look bad at any point, and just a guy who came every day to work and played for his teammates and played for his team."