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Will Hernandez played an anonymous position for an anonymous college team. He’s now a 2nd-round guard for the Giants.

Hernandez’s talents have overcome his circumstances.

NFL Combine - Day 1 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — Will Hernandez was the No. 34 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for the New York Giants, the second pick in the second round. That’s quite a thing for someone who played arguably football’s most anonymous position at arguably college football’s most anonymous school, but Hernandez will have earned it.

Hernandez played left guard for UTEP. Guards are not generally high NFL picks. They don’t command dollars like tackles, and they don’t anchor offensive lines like centers.

None went in the first round in 2017, and just two — at 28 and 31 — went in 2016. Between Hernandez and Notre Dame star Quenton Nelson, a top-10 pick, this could be the biggest year for the guard position in a long time.

“I definitely think they’re starting to value guards and interior linemen more,” Hernandez told reporters at the NFL Combine. “I’ve heard it from teams themselves. I think it’s starting to even out a little bit between tackle and guard.”

UTEP is the hardest coaching gig in college football right now, given its lack of money and its remote location. The Miners were 0-12 in 2017.

“It was never an option for me just to throw in the towel or just give up on the season just because we were losing games or we hadn’t won,” he said. “Even though it was the worst feeling ever, I could never live with myself knowing that I just gave up. If you’re gonna do that, you might as well not even be there.”

Amid UTEP’s sadness, Hernandez emerged as a star. He made various All-America teams in 2016 and 2017, entrenching himself as one of the handful of best offensive lineman in a sport with hundreds of them. He showed up at the NFL Combine and put up 37 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, more than any other O-lineman. He measured 6’2 and 327 pounds, making him the fourth heaviest of the group, punctuated by a cut build. That all sounds good. The key is that it’s in line with what we already knew.

Hernandez is a mauler and close to a sure thing in the NFL.

Hernandez played for a terrible college team in low-level Conference USA. At a surface level, it’s easy to be skeptical of anyone who dominates that type of competition. Teams haven’t brought that point up to him, he said at the combine, but he’s braced for it.

“I do have it in the back of my head that it could be a possible question, being asked about that,” he said, and added he views it as a motivator.

One good reason not to be skeptical about Hernandez is this game tape of him working an afternoon against Oklahoma in 2017’s season opener. Despite the Big 12’s reputation for lax defense, Oklahoma had a front with plenty of high-end talent. Hernandez’s team got crushed, but he spent the day showing out against quality opposition.

Hernandez does pretty much everything you’d want a guard to do. He’s No. 76 in white, at left guard.

Some highlights: He can authoritatively seal off a lane on inside-zone runs:

He can use one hand to stop pass rushers in their tracks, as if he’s playing with them:

And he looks fluid when he pulls around the line to block in space:

He is an absolute unit.

Hernandez is an athlete, not just a lineman.

He says he once ran a 100-meter dash in 12.33 seconds, which was “just for giggles” on top of a shot-put and discuss career. He also wrestled, which is an extremely regular thing for draft-caliber offensive linemen.

“I think it’s very, very useful for linemen,” he said. “It teaches you leverage. I honestly think it’s a harder sport than football. Nobody’s out there to help you. It’s just you, one-on-one.”

It’s impossible to draw a cause-and-effect line here, but Hernandez looks especially dominant in one-on-one pass protection. He doesn’t get tipped over. Maybe that’s the wrestling, or maybe it’s just that he’s really good. At any rate, he’ll get picked early.

He’s also been getting NFL line coaching for years.

UTEP was awful, but it surely helped Hernandez that his head coach in college was Sean Kugler, a longtime NFL offensive line coach who was coming off three years with the Steelers when he took the UTEP head gig for 2013.

“He’s one of the main reasons that I’m standing right here right now,” Hernandez said of his old coach, who got fired in the midst of 2017’s disastrous season. “He taught me everything from football as it should be played with a mean streak, coming off the ball every play, to actual technique and improving my craft. He improved me in every way, physically, mentally, technically, so I’m very thankful to Coach Kugler.”

Kugler’s now the Broncos’ offensive line coach. Now, Hernandez will be protecting Eli Manning.