Offensive lineman Nick Gates, back in action after undergoing seven surgeries to repair a fractured tibia and fibula in his left leg suffered Week 2 of last season, has been named the New York Giants recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
Gates missed 410 days of NFL action between his injury and his Week 8 return this season against the Seattle Seahawks. Gates made his first start last Thursday, filling in at center for Jon Feliciano in a 28-20 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Ed Block Courage Awards honors NFL players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. The award is unique in that the recipients are selected solely by a vote of their teammates. Every fall, all 32 teams conduct a vote which results in each team selecting their Ed Block Courage Award recipient.
“It’s definitely something meaningful ... even more so that my teammates voted on it,” Gates said on Monday. “They saw me every day last year, putting in the hard work to get back to where I was, and all the struggles and all the things I had to overcome.”
Gates underwent a long, arduous rehab process with not guarantee he would ever be healthy enough to play in the NFL again.
“I just took it step by step day by day, I’ve never tried to look too far ahead, and didn’t look in the past,” Gates said. “What happened happened, and I can’t control that part of it. All I could control was my attitude and what I did every day, and I just tried to put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. So that’s all I tried to tell myself.”
Gates has now played 130 snaps over four games since his return.
“I always appreciate stepping on the field now coming back from injury because I never had an injury like that, or I’ve never had a big injury before in the game,” Gates said. “Every chance I get to step on the football field in practice, games, I appreciate every single moment and try to just enjoy it. I had that first game where I kind of took it all in and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m back,’ but now it’s on to the next thing. My leg feels good, doesn’t hurt, so just onto the next game basically.”
The Ed Block Courage Award recipient symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication. The Giants’ 2021 honoree was running back Saquon Barkley, who totaled 856 scrimmage yards after missing almost the entire 2020 season with a knee injury.
Gates has always been known as a fiesty player, and after Thursday’s game he and star Cowboys linebacker Micah Parson traded accusations of dirty play.
“That’s just my game. I feel like I’ve always been that guy,” Gates said. “And it doesn’t matter who it is. If it was Micah or if it was anybody else. It’s just what I do. I just play hard and I kind of get under people’s skin and don’t like that.
“I always played hard. I always played tough, played through the whistle. That’s just what I was taught. I never was a great technician at football. So I always had to show something, another way I belonged on the field. And I feel like that’s my way to be on the field is playing hard. And taking that like, enforcer role, I guess, if you want to call it that. I think that’s the way football is supposed to be played.”
Feliciano (neck) should be healthy enough to return this Sunday against the Washington Commanders. Starting left guard Ben Bredeson has also been designated to return from injured reserve.
Gates, who could line up at either spot, doesn’t know as of yet what his role will be Sunday. He said he rotated at practice with both players.
“I’ve just got to play. Gotta put some good film out there,” Gates said. “I’ve got to just play the way I play. Do what I got to do. I feel like center wherever it’s at, I’m gonna play hard and try to put the best tape on the film.”