Away from the field, New York Giants offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler is very likable and friendly guy. However, when it’s time to go to work, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound mauler’s likeableness turns into a laser-like focus on the game.
Zeitler’s seriousness is not lost on his position coach, Hal Hunter. After all, Hunter has been coaching for almost four decades.
“He is the most serious, focused, all-about-football-guy I have ever been around,” Hunter said. “I thought it was (former San Diego Chargers o-lineman) Kris Dielman but he takes it up a notch. You love being around a guy like that. I worry about him wearing himself out mentally, because he is so focused and so in tune. I think it starts to get contagious with the other guys.”
Zeitler, who is entering his eighth season, was traded to the Giants in the deal that sent Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns. He has developed a reputation for being an unyielding run blocker who is equally steadfast in pass protection. Since arriving in East Rutherford, he has been a fixture at the Quest Diagnostic Training Center’s weight room.
Zeitler says he has always been extremely serious about football going back to his high school days.
“I came from a good high school program (Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Lutheran) and a great college program (Wisconsin) where that of stuff was really harped on,” Zeitler said. “When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. You might as well use every minute that you can while that task is to get better. Just push it, take it to the limit, then turn it off later.”
Zeitler was brought in to form a new right side of the Giants’ offensive line. His running mate will be free agent signee Mike Remmers. The two have bonded in an unconventional way: over Nintendo 64.
“We’re talking about Nintendo 64 yesterday and how much we love playing video games,” Remmers said in an interview with Big Blue View. “He’s got his Nintendo 64 here with him. We don’t get a lot of free time but when do it’s nice to kick back, put the feet up, and relax and just play some games.”
Remmers is also aware of Zeitler’s laser-like focus.
“I wouldn’t want to line up across from him, I’ll tell you that much,” Remmers said. “I’m happy that he’s right next to me. He’s got a different look in his eye.”
Hunter has noticed Remmers is just as intense as Zeitler when it’s time to focus on football.
“He’s a low-key in the room,” Hunter said of Remmers. “He’s on point, he’s smart. You talk about a guy who turns a switch on, when he’s on the field he’s tough, nasty, a different type of guy. I think he brings a cerebral player in the room and a tough, aggressive guy on the field.”
Zeitler believes he and Remmers compliment each other.
“I think we balance each other out nice,” Zeitler said. “I’m very hyper-focused, a “let’s get this done” type and he takes a little lighter focus. He likes to joke around and have a good time out there, so I think it’s a nice balance and keeps up both kind of level.”
Zeitler and Remmers were brought in to reboot the Giants’ offensive line. In 2018, the o-line was ranked 21st by Pro Football Focus. Quarterback Eli Manning was sacked 47 times last season, sixth-most in the league and the most in any season in his career.
In order for the Giants to have success on the offensive side of the ball, it begins with general manager Dave Gettleman’s “hog mollies”.
Zeitler and Remmers join a group that includes second-year Will Hernandez and veteran Nate Solder on the left with Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley in the center. The reserves currently are Chad Wheeler and Brian Mihalik.
“I think it’s got a different makeup, mentally,” Hunter said of the o-line. “When you add two veteran players like Mike Remmers and Kevin Zeitler, who are two serious guys who’ve got a lot of NFL snaps, they’re a pro’s pro, they are tough smart. All of a sudden, you’ve added a lot to your group.”
Building camaraderie is essential. The Giants o-linemen are always together whether it is in the meeting room or at team meals. They even dress together at one end of the locker room.
“It’s nice to have team-bonding, especially the o-line,” Remmers said. “It’s a very tight-knit group. We’re very close in the locker room. We all eat together. We do everything together pretty much. If we have some free time, we’re all getting together and doing something together. We’re always together. The offensive line is a very special group. I’ve seen that on every team I’ve ever been on. The o-linemen always stick together.”
Hunter expects noticeable improvement from his group because of the blend of young and veteran players.
“I just think there’s a more serious focus,” Hunter said. “I would say more of an old-school approach, and that’s what those players bring. We’ve got some good young players coming up, so there’s a little bit of competition in there. There’s a real focused, determined, work ethic going on right now.”