Andre Williams was curious how it would feel.
He put in so much work in the offseason to reshape his body, give himself a new physique, make himself a better running back, and Friday night against the Dolphins he had his first opportunity to see if it paid off.
The results, he said, were fantastic.
“It felt very good,” he said this week after gaining a team-high 41 yards on nine carries, with a long of 16 yards. “I feel more fluid out there, I definitely do, especially with the outside zone where sometimes you have to move sideways before you can move forward and you have to be able to change direction. I did feel more fluid. I felt like my body was moving without thought.”
A higher state of rushing, if you will, from the Zen-back.
“Sometimes you’ll get in the zone and it happens, but this was just the normal play to play where I was able to say ‘OK, this is the play, I know what I need to do, I’m going to just let it happen.’ And it was happening again and again. I did have some explosive run I was able to capitalize on. I wanted more, but for the first preseason game getting my feet wet I felt real ly good.”
Especially after a disappointing second season in the NFL last year, when he ran for only 257 yards. As a senior at Boston College he had four games — games — in which he ran for more yards than that.
Which is why he overhauled his offseason training. He did away with traditional weight lifting and decided to embrace a nearly fanatical program to improve his upper body strength. He started by doing 1,000 push-ups and 300 pull-ups for five straight days and gradually increased his workload until he was doing 2,500 push-ups and 600 pull-ups for five days. The final tally over 20 days leading up to training camp: 35,000 push-ups and 9,000 pull-ups.
“They always say hard work pays off, hard work will bring you further than talent,” Williams said. “Talent will get you to the top, hard work will keep you there. I keep hearing that. So I wanted to test it out. I had to figure out how to work hard first, and now that I’ve figured out how to work hard I can definitely feel the growth, and I know I’m only going to keep going up from here.”
Not only did Williams get stronger, he also lost weight. He dropped 12 pounds to get below 220 for the first time in his NFL career — he played at more than 230 last year — and nearly six inches from his waist. The Giants certainly have noticed.
“He’s sleeker, definitely sleeker,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “Has a little more burst. I think there were a couple of shots of him dipping in and running out, and showing nice burst there on the perimeter. Put his pads down, ran behind his pads. He’s always done that, though, he’s always been able to move piles. He’s just a little sleeker now.”
McAdoo added that Williams looks to him like “a man on a mission.” He speculated that the mission is “to touch the ball,” something he didn’t get to do much last season because of his lack of production. But while Williams agreed he is on a mission, he said it’s a little bit more ambitious than just getting carries.
“To score touchdowns, to score points,” Williams said. “That is the mission however it happens, whether I’m running the ball or catching the ball, whether I knock somebody flat on kickoff and knock the ball loose and bring it in for a touchdown, I just want to be dynamic on the field. I know I have it in me.
“If I can score touchdowns, I know I’m playing my role,” he added. “As Coach says, everybody has a role to play. I don’t necessarily know how that is going to shape out this season, but I know if I have a role, then I’ll be on the field, and if I’m on the field, then I can score touchdowns. You have to score touchdowns to win, and that’s what I want to do. I just want to get on the field and help us win a championship.”
How many touchdowns? Thirty-five thousand to match his summer regimen? He laughed.
“Nah,” he said. “But hey, if I get 30 . . . ”
Then expect everyone on the Giants to spend next summer doing nothing but push-ups and pull-ups.