Meggett just loves Emmitt Smith role

September 19, 1994|By Gary Myers | Gary Myers,New York Daily News

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- David Meggett was refreshed and ready to go back to work. It was early evening, barely an hour after the busiest day of his career.

"I can go play now," he insisted. "If we had an 8 o'clock game, I could play now."

Fortunately, the schedule says the New York Giants don't play for another two weeks. They hit the bye for the second straight year at 3-0 after their 31-23 victory over the Washington Redskins yesterday. Instead, Meggett was off to the training room, not a bad spot considering the workload he had against the Redskins.

In his 21 games with the Giants, Dan Reeves has proven his No. 1 runner will get the ball 25 times, whether it's Rodney Hampton, Lewis Tillman or Meggett -- to this point a prolific returner and the best specialty back in the NFL

And with Hampton out with a bruised kidney and Tillman now running in Chicago, it was Meggett, all 5 feet 7, 195 pounds of him, who was playing the role of Emmitt Smith, pounding up the middle against the Redskins in the seventh start in his six years. And he was loving it.

"It's a different challenge for me than I had before," said Meggett, who began his college career as a defensive back at Morgan State before transferring to running back and Towson State. "I never had the opportunity to carry 20 or 25 times before. This is a fun situation for me. A different situation."

Meggett has carried 41 times in the past two games. That's more carries than he had in any of his first four seasons before Reeves ran him 69 times last year. Before last week, the most carries he ever had in a regular-season game was eight. He had 10 in the 1990 NFC Championship game.

He has played a huge role in each of the Giants' three victories. Against the Skins, he carried 26 times for 82 yards, scored twice on short runs, caught four passes for 52 yards and threw a 16-yard TD off an option play to Aaron Pierce.

"I told him a couple of times, 'We need you, [No.] 30.' He looked dead a couple of times," wide receiver Mike Sherrard said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got the biggest heart. He laid it on the line. He caught passes. He threw a touchdown. I was waiting to see if he was going to serve hot dogs to us."

Guard William Roberts said he thought Meggett's ribs were hurting a little. Meggett did come out to a big ovation on the last series when he got cramps in his right leg from dehydration. "I was telling him, 'We're with you buddy,' " Roberts said. "He hides behind us and gets lost."

There's something about the Redskins that brings out the quarterback in Meggett. He has TD passes in three straight games against the Skins. Reeves perfected the art of the halfback pass during his career with the Cowboys and has found a protege in Meggett. This one was too easy. He rolled to the right, and with safety Martin Bayless coming up, Pierce was wide open.

"It was easier than the ones I threw last year," Meggett said.

That's when he had a 42-yarder to Sherrard and a 21-yarder to Chris Calloway. Meggett broke into the league in 1989 by catching a 62-yard TD pass from Phil Simms against Washington in the opening Monday night game of the season. For years, he has been the prototype utility man. Each year at draft time, the elite teams talked about finding another Meggett. That's what the San Francisco 49ers were thinking when they drafted Dexter Carter in 1990.

Meggett hasn't run this much since his days at Towson State against Delaware State and James Madison. He said he was no more sore after yesterday's game. "I'm still getting hit," he said. "Contact is contact. If you run up and hit me, it's contact."

How much more of this can Meggett take? Some teammates are concerned about that. He has no doubts he can handle the load. "If I did, I'd probably be back in Charleston in South Carolina," he said.

Even though Reeves played the game as if the 230-pound Hampton was getting the 26 carries, he did take Meggett off punt- and kickoff-return duty.

"If you look at it and say, 'I'm not trying to hurt people,' then you wouldn't even put them in the game," Reeves said. "You got to utilize people and certainly try and be smart about it. There's no ++ question that Dave is not a guy that is going to pound it up there. But you've got to go with what you've got."

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