This was in the summer of 2011, soon after Andre Brown was waived for the seventh time and returned to the Giants, who had drafted him in 2009. Brown had rushed for more than 2,500 yards at North Carolina State, but his career NFL stat line read two carries for minus-1 yard.
Brown was driven to make sure those numbers weren't attached to him in perpetuity.
"I can't do that," Brown said. "I can't have my kids, when they get here, see that. 'Daddy, you only had two carries.' No, we can't go out like that."
A lot has changed since then. Brown is the father of a young son, Sebastian. And now he has some rushing totals he can be proud of. Yesterday, when Ahmad Bradshaw went down with a neck injury, Brown stepped up and led the Giants in rushing with 71 yards on 13 carries, a 5.5-yard average. His two-yard run with 31 seconds remaining was the winning touchdown in the Giants' thrilling 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in MetLife Stadium. Brown also caught two passes for 19 yards.
It's been a long journey, but Brown showed that he belongs in the NFL.
"I felt like that even when I was going around the league," Brown said. "I just needed a shot and took advantage of my shot yesterday. I don't think it's closure, though. I think it's a beginning. I played in a NFL game and I really contributed to the win that we had yesterday. I just think that it's just the beginning and I'm going to continue to work hard and continue to go out here and do whatever coach wants me to do and be ready whenever my number is called."
Brown carried for the first time in the second quarter and lost a yard just prior to Eli Manning's second interception. After the Bucs scored a touchdown to increase their lead to 17-6, Brown gained 23 yards on the Giants' first snap and 40 on an 80-yard drive that ended with Manning's touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks.
"He did well for a guy that thought his role was basically going to be special teams," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He played and played well and he was involved in some pass protection opportunities and did pretty well with that. There may have been one that wasn't quite as well done, but he ran hard, he ran fast, he really had a chance to break a couple. I thought maybe he was coming out of there with one of them and he caught the ball out of the backfield well and knew to get north and south and took care of the ball and I think for the first time he's had that kind of exposure and play time, I thought he came through it well."
Brown has shown impressive perseverance in getting to this point. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in his rookie training and missed the entire season. Noticeably slower a year later, he was waived by the Giants in the final cutdown in 2010. That began an odyssey that saw Brown sign with and subsequently get released by Denver (twice), Indianapolis (twice), Carolina and Washington. His only two carries – for the aforementioned minus-1 yard – were for Denver at Baltimore on Oct. 10, 2010. Brown re-signed with the Giants last summer, was released yet again and spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad. This year, he beat out D.J. Ware for a spot on the roster. Yesterday, 3½ years after he was drafted, Brown made his first real contribution.
"Being injured, being bounced around - I'm not going to lie to you, there were times when I was like, 'Dang, is this for me?'" Brown said. "How is this going to play out? I just remained faithful and kept my confidence up and people telling me that I can do this and my family being a big crutch for me just saying, 'You were meant to do this.' So you just go out there and continue working hard and your hard work will pay off. I'm going to continue to work hard and continue to go out here and just keep shocking the world."
On Thursday, the Giants will play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, about a four-hour drive from Brown's family home in Greenville. If Bradshaw is sidelined, Brown could start for the first time in his home state.
"It would mean a lot," Brown said. "I have a lot of family coming, but we'll find out Thursday, so I have no idea. I'm just going to go in there and get ready for special teams and just remain humble and whatever happens, happens."
It's an attitude that has pushed him along on a long journey to the Giants' backfield.
*Coughlin spoke to the media today via conference call before most of the players arrived at the Timex Performance Center, so he had no updates on the status of tackle David Diehl (knee), wide receiver Domenik Hixon (concussion) and Bradshaw (neck). Coughlin did say that Diehl had injured his medial collateral ligament.
*Coughlin seemed impressed with rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley, who started for the first time yesterday.
"He battled," Coughlin said. "He's a competitive, scrappy guy and flew around pretty good. I think he got a bunch of that stuff from the (artificial turf) field in his eye and had to come out for a little bit, but he competes."
*Coughlin wasn't ready to say if Prince Amukamara will be play at Carolina. Amukamara was inactive for the second straight game because of an ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason.
"Well, we'll see," Coughlin said. "He did work last week as everybody knows and he did have one really good day I thought, a couple of days where we had some issues, so we'll see how he is having been able to rest here and hopefully he'll be a little bit stronger. Maybe perhaps play with a minimal amount of pain. We'll just have to see."
*The Giants gained 604 yards vs. Tampa Bay, the second-highest total in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants are the 12th team to generate at least 600 yards of offense in a regular-season game since the 1970 merger. Two other teams did it in the playoffs. The last team to pass the 600-yard barrier was New Orleans, which had 617 yards in its 2011 regular season finale vs. Carolina. The Saints gained 626 yards the following week in their NFC Wild Card victory over Detroit.
*Eli Manning became the ninth quarterback in history to throw for at least 510 yards in a regular-season game.
*The Giants' 604 yards and 510 passing yards were each the highest totals ever by a Coughlin-coached team. The previous highs were 538 total yards and 420 passing yards for the Jacksonville Jaguars at St. Louis on Oct. 20, 1996. Despite all those yards – and a 36-8 advantage in first downs - the Jaguars lost, 17-14, because they had six turnovers, including five Mark Brunell interceptions.
*Manning was not sacked Sunday. The Giants are 20-7 in his starts when he is not sacked and 50-44 when he is.