ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Wayne Gallman and Pat Shurmur first crossed paths at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Shurmur was then the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator and Gallman a draft-eligible running back from Clemson. Theirs was a routine combine get-together, with pleasantries exchanged and no promises made.
And it essentially became unnecessary two months later, when the Vikings selected Florida State runner Dalvin Cook in the first round, making moot the potential selection of Gallman. The Giants selected Gallman in the fourth round, and he rushed for 476 yards as a rookie.
This year, Shurmur and Gallman are together, the former as the team's new coach, and Gallman as a second-year pro trying to earn more playing time. But as in last year's draft, he has more highly-touted players ahead of him. One is Saquon Barkley, the second overall selection in the 2018 draft. Another is Jonathan Stewart, an 11-year veteran who set the Carolina Panthers franchise record with 7,318 rushing yards in his 10 years with the team.
But Gallman has still managed to catch Shurmur's eye. And when Barkley missed today's joint practice with the Detroit Lions because of a strained hamstring, more reps were available for Gallman.
"I didn't know much about him, even though there were reps a year ago," Shurmur said. "I'm gaining an appreciation for what he is as a runner, a pass catcher, and a blocker. Any of these young players that can get more reps than we had originally scheduled for them, that's a blessing for those guys because they have the opportunity to show us more of what they can do, and improve."
Barkley was injured while making a spectacular catch in practice yesterday in East Rutherford. He worked with the Giants' athletic trainers today, and Shurmur continued to stress the injury is not serious.
"He just tweaked his hamstring," Shurmur said. "It's day to day. We'll just see where he's at, but really nothing to add from yesterday. Nothing serious, I think. Just day to day.
"Certainly, player safety is right on the front burner for all of us all the time, so if he's able to go, he'll play; if he's not, then he won't be out there."
But Stewart and Gallman were, and they were joined by young backs Robert Martin and Jalen Simmons. Gallman said his workload was not appreciably greater with Barkley sidelined.
"I've been getting reps like that pretty much this whole preseason and in the spring camps," he said. "I've been working with the ones, the twos and the threes. So (I've received) consistent reps. Just trying to get the plays downs."
Gallman was clearly the Giants' No. 3 back when camp opened. Barkley, after all, was the consensus best player in the draft and the team's top selection. He immediately stepped into the first-team huddle. In Stewart, the Giants found Barkley the perfect colleague, a seasoned pro who would willingly mentor the youngster while continuing to produce himself.
It would be hard for any player to take playing time from that duo, but Gallman never concerned himself with the long odds.
"I came in as always in any year, in terms of being the starter, being the guy doing everything I can to be the guy in terms of what I do on and off the field," Gallman said. "We got J. Stew in here who's a great running back over the past couple of years, got Saquon, number two pick, and then you have me. We're in a really good position. We got talent in the backfield with us and talent on the outside with the receivers, and I think it's just going to be a really good year."
Instead of worrying about his situation, Gallman was determined to use it to his advantage,
"The competition makes you better," he said. "You want competition regardless of the fact even if you were the starter and everyone down the list weren't going to start at any time, but still you want that competition in terms of being a better player for yourself. Also, you want that competition because you know you're going to have competition throughout the year and wanting to be the best running back corps in the league."
With Barkley, Stewart and Gallman, they might just reach that goal.