Little big man carries heavier load, but ready to take on even more Meggett, Giants throw back Redskins, 31-23

September 19, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He rushed 26 times, caught four passes and threw for a touchdown, but David Meggett still wanted more.

"I can go play now," he said, chuckling as he strolled out of the New York Giants locker room. "If we had an 8 o'clock game, I could play now."

Got that, Dan Reeves?

Let's see Meggett at defensive back, the position he played at Morgan State. Let's see him carry the ball 30 times a game, the way he did after transferring to Towson State.

Meggett, 28, would love it, even if his 5-foot-7, 195-pound body couldn't take it. Reeves is nervous enough running him this often. The last thing he needs is Meggett Mania on every down.

Still, it was fun watching him yesterday in the Giants' 31-23 victory over the Washington Redskins, fun seeing him run for two touchdowns and throw a 16-yard pass to Aaron Pierce for a third.

"I've got to watch my position," Giants quarterback Dave Brown joked afterward. "He might want the big dollars, and come play quarterback."

Indeed, Meggett served as the perfect symbol for the NFL's "Throwback Weekend," a little man with a big heart turning himself into a hero.

Yesterday was his coming-out party, the game he has been waiting for his entire career.

RTC He wasn't just a return man.

He wasn't just a third-down specialist.

He was a running back, once and for all.

It might not sound like much, but few 5-7 players survive, let alone thrive, in the smash-mouth NFL. And here was Meggett, replacing Rodney Hampton, proving he belonged.

"If you look at it and say you don't want to hurt people, you wouldn't ever put him in the game," Reeves said. "You've got to utilize people, be smart about it.

"No question, David isn't a guy to pound it up in there. But you've got to go with what you got. We didn't have much of a selection."

Not with Hampton sidelined by a bruised kidney. And not with Lewis Tillman -- Hampton's backup last season -- playing for the Chicago Bears.

The wonderful world of the salary cap leaves teams with virtually no depth, and Brown has thrown only 56 passes in his first three games as Giants quarterback.

That made Meggett the man.

Before this season, he had never rushed more than eight times in a game or 69 times in a season. But he set career highs with 15 carries against Arizona last week and 26 yesterday.

He scored just one rushing touchdown in his first five NFL seasons; now he has quadrupled that total. Yesterday, he finished with 150 all-purpose yards -- 82 rushing, 52 receiving, 16 passing.

"He throws a good ball," Pierce joked after scoring his first NFL touchdown. "I wouldn't mind him being behind center a couple of times."

That's three straight games Meggett has thrown for a TD against Washington. What is it with the Redskins? Those are the only touchdown passes of Meggett's career.

The halfback option to Pierce gave the Giants a 24-20 lead early in the third quarter, but Meggett's biggest contribution came in the fourth period, with the score 24-23.

He carried the ball on seven of the 10 plays on the Giants' final scoring drive, a one-trick pony thrust into the role of workhorse.

Late in the drive, he crawled to recover his own fumble on the Redskins' 1-yard line. Then, he spun toward the goal line with safety Deral Boykin on his back to score on the next play.

By then, he was exhausted, right?

Meggett laughed off the question.

"I'm in condition, believe it or not," he said. "I worked out in the off-season."

In fact, Meggett added 10 pounds of bulk, making him, oh, only about 100 pounds lighter than your average defensive lineman. Somehow, in six NFL seasons, he has yet to miss a game.

As for yesterday, Meggett insisted it was not much different from his days at Towson State, when he was facing James Madison and not the Washington Redskins.

"The contact is the same," he said. "I'm getting hit. It's not like I'm eluding everyone. Contact is contact. If you walk up to me and hit me right now, it's the same contact."

That got a hearty laugh in the interview room, but Meggett had to be telling the truth -- he was wearing a white baseball cap with the words "No B.S." inscribed.

"He gives it his all," Giants wide receiver Mike Sherrard said. "He's got to be dead after the game. But he'll do anything for the team."

Got that, Dan Reeves?

Anything.

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