Wayne Gallman is excited to resume where he left off last Sunday:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –Last Sunday night, Wayne Gallman received a text from Dabo Swinney, his head coach at Clemson University.
"He just said he missed me, said happy birthday and everything,' Gallman said.
Yes, it was indeed Gallman's 23rd birthday. And that afternoon, he made his NFL debut by leading the Giants in rushing, catching two passes, and scoring a touchdown in the loss at Tampa Bay. So there was one more element in Swinney's text.
"He said he's proud of me," Gallman said.
Chances are it won't be the last time. Despite a fumble – which he recovered – Gallman was impressive in his first regular-season game. And with starting running back Paul Perkins sidelined with a rib injury, Gallman will get another chance to contribute when the Giants host the Los Angeles Chargers tomorrow.
"I'm just waiting on what's next," Gallman said.
Gallman rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries and scored his first pro touchdown on a four-yard pass from Eli Manning. Just as importantly, he showed the Giants that he could be a long-term contributor at a position where the team needs increased production.
"Wayne's a young player who plays fast," coach Ben McAdoo said. "I think you saw the speed when he jumped onto the field. He has electricity in his game. He's a talented, young player. He has a lot to learn, but he's very, very willing and works hard at it."
"I thought Wayne did some good things, had some nice runs and got some good yardage, ran hard," Manning said. "He's exciting. Seems like he's an exciting guy when he gets the ball in his hands. We just have to give him opportunities to make some plays. Had a nice touchdown and did some good things."
A year ago, Gallman rushed for 1,133 yards and scored 17 touchdowns to help Swinney's Tigers win the national championship with a last-second victory against Alabama in the title game (he ran for 46 yards and a score that night). In three seasons at Clemson, Gallman rushed for 3,429 yards, averaged 5.1 yards a carry, caught 65 passes, and scored 36 touchdowns. Those numbers, and Gallman's size, speed and athleticism prompted the Giants to select him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
Gallman led the Giants with 103 rushing yards in the preseason. But when the regular season began, he was inactive for the first three games as Perkins, Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen split the running back duties.
"It wasn't the fact that I was frustrated, I was just so anxious and ready just to play some football," Gallman said. "It's been a while since I've had to sit and watch from the sideline. Even though that was good for me, even though it was good for me mentally, I still wanted to get out there. I'm glad I was able to get out there this past weekend, it was really fun."
Gallman's first NFL carry near the end of the first quarter gained a modest two yards. In the second half, he had 10 of the Giants' 12 rushing attempts.
"I was ready to go," Gallman said. "I just really tried to do what the team wanted. Do what the coaches taught. They really want to go out and get in that comfort zone. The more reps I get and the more comfortable I get, I'm pretty sure my game will come out. But I just want to do what the coaches want."
Although he pulled part-time duty, Gallman quickly gained an appreciation for the difference between college football and the NFL.
"Everyone knows what they're doing," he said. "Everyone is detailed about their assignment. Basically, you just have to make sure you stay on your P's and Q's when you're running that football, because it matters. If you go out of that, it could be a tackle for loss, or you could hit the A gap for a five-yard gain. In college, you could go side-to-side, turn all the way around, make a couple people miss. In the NFL, you got so many talented people around you, it's rarely ever going to happen."
Gallman's touchdown, with 4:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, gave the Giants a 17-16 lead.
"I'm just glad Eli picked me instead of Evan (Engram)," Gallman said. "It really just felt natural. Just playing football, having fun, and doing what we do."
After an impressive debut, the Giants will likely ask him to do it more frequently in the next few weeks.
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