Wayne Gallman bent to pick up something off the floor in front of his locker this past week, and when he turned around, he was startled to find a group of about 20 reporters with microphones and cameras pointed in his direction.
“Oh, wow,” he said at the crowd.
This is what happens when you go from an inactive rookie playing mostly on the scout team to one of the few bright spots the Giants’ running game has experienced in the last few years, and do so in the course of one game. One half of a game, really.
Gallman saw his first NFL action last Sunday against the Bucs and ran for 42 yards on 11 carries. He also caught two passes out of the backfield, one of them for a touchdown.
Given the lack of production by the other running backs on the team and the injuries at the position, it was a performance that, although far from spellbinding, should propel Gallman from the bottom of the depth chart to close to the top.
“He showed it wasn’t too big for him,” coach Ben McAdoo said of Gallman’s debut. “You saw the energy that Gallman brought to the game . . . Wayne’s a young player who plays fast. I think you saw the speed when he jumped onto the field. He has electricity in his game. He’s a talented young player.”
Other than all of that — the media attention and the praise from the head coach and the likely-to-be-increased role in the game plan Sunday against the Chargers — life hasn’t changed all that much for Gallman.
“It’s been pretty laid-back,” he said. “Trying to just be a homebody and get prepared for my day at practice.”
He’s been like that for a while.
“Very much the same,” Giants second-year linebacker B.J. Goodson, who played at Clemson with Gallman, said of the running back’s lack of off-the-field distractions in college. “Not much has changed.”
“Wayne’s personality is very focused,” said his girlfriend, Alexis Carter, who is a senior and the starting point guard for the Clemson women’s basketball team. “He is just really a grinder who wants to focus on the task in front of him, learn as much as he can at this next level and get out there and do a great job.”
That’s not exactly the kind of personality that many running backs have. They often tend to run hard both on and off the field. Gallman, who said he prefers to stay indoors and hang around at home, lacks that quality, even if he bristles when it is put in some terms.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t flashy,” he said. “I just like to chill. Guys want to step out, I’ll step out, but I’m not going to be the first to do it.”
“Wayne does come out of his shell, but he takes football very seriously,” Carter said. “Wayne is just a solid guy who is always going to be focused, and every time he steps on the field, he is ready to go.”
When it comes to that, playing football, Gallman has a little more pizzazz to him.
Goodson said he was not surprised by the spark he brought to the team.
“His running style is just unique, it’s different,” he said. “It kind of keeps you on your toes. It’s different from other running backs. You don’t know what his next move is going to be.”
“I knew I could help,” Gallman said of the running game. “I felt like I did what I was told to do. I know what I can do and I know what I can show. It’s pretty natural.”
The Giants aren’t going to hand the reins to Gallman right away. They have other running backs. But starter Paul Perkins will not play against the Chargers because of a rib contusion, so that leaves Gallman, Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen in the backfield. The three have totaled 142 rushing yards on 36 carries (3.9 average). Perkins, who had the majority of the touches in the first month, has 61 yards on 32 carries (1.9 average).
“Each of those guys has a skill set they bring to the table and they all have to be ready,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “We’re counting on all of them to be ready.”
“Every player has a role,” McAdoo said. “They play their role going into the game. If somebody gets hot, we’ll ride him.”
Coming into this game, Gallman is the hottest hand the Giants have. The hottest they’ve had in a while.