Go ahead and just try to take the ball out of New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman’s hands.
You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than you would wrestling the ball free.
That’s because Gallman, the Giants fourth-round pick this year, truly does believe that one the ball is in his possession, it’s his job to not only to advance it, but to also protect it.
If some defender just happens to get in his way, well, then Gallman, who at 6-0, 210 pounds doesn’t look very intimidating but who is in fact deceptively strong, is going to make that defender pay.
It’s all part of Gallman’s progress in the Giants running game in which he has quietly gone about his business in silence, keeping his eye on the prize.
“Just confidence factor and the ‘want-to,’” he said Thursday after practice about what he’s brought to the offense. “That’s the thing I base my game off is my ‘want-to’ and I know what I can do for this offense.”
What Gallman wants to do is show people he can be an every-down, physical running back who can pass block as necessary, who can push piles with is strong lower base and who can be counted on for those little swing passes and throws to the flat that the Giants run.
So far, so good. Gallman has 369 yards in 86 carries and 149 yards in 28 receptions this season.
In his last two games in particular, Gallman has seen a significant uptick in his workload. According to Pro Football Focus, Gallman has been on the field for 73 offensive snaps, rushing for 98 yards on 20 carries and catching 13 passes for 80 yards.
Orleans Darkwa, the starter, has seen roughly half of Gallman’s snaps (41), rushing for 36 yards on 19 carries while catching three passes for 24 yards.
“Wayne is a guy that is explosive with the ball in his hands whether he’s catching it or whether he’s running it. He’s shown an improved ability to grasp what we want him to do mentally in terms of the pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
Sullivan sheepishly admitted that sometimes Gallman leaves the coaching staff holding its breath once he has the ball in his hands, but in a good way.
“He does have a really good knack for catching the football and there are times we’ll see him, whether it’s in practice or in games, in terms of once he has the ball in his hands, you see just a great read then explosive cut and it’s like you get excited. And then other times you’re thinking, ‘Oh, what’s he doing? No! No! Yes! Go! Go!’ So, he ends up doing some good things.”
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Gallman in the beginning. He struggled a bit in training camp, particularly as a receiver out of the backfield where he dropped passes.
Because he wasn’t ready, the coaching staff de-activated him for the first three games of the season.
Gallman, realizing that he had to earn the coaches’ trust, set about making that happen.
“You try to learn so much and you want to get out there so bad, but there’s so many things you have to learn to get the time out there and it’s also a trust factor,” Gallman said.
“So just going through the beginning of the season, I know there were things I had to get better at, but it was all about me being comfortable.”
He studied his playbook, determined to master the protection schemes that he knew he’d be able to execute once he understood them.
As for his case of the dropsies, Gallman studied himself on film, immediately identifying a technique issue that sometimes takes some running backs and receivers years to recognize.
“There were times I didn’t look the ball all the way in and my head was turned upfield because I knew someone was right there rather than just catching it and making a move,” he said of his findings. “I just told myself to settle down and get comfortable, and everything would come.”
He also takes pride in his blocking, such as the one the threw downfield on receiver Sterling Shepard’s 67-yard touchdown run against the Eagles last week.
“Yeah, you gotta block on plays and it’s always that extra ‘want-to,” Gallman said. “Even when you don’t have the ball it’s about making that extra block for your teammates because I’d want them to do the same thing for me. I know there have been struggles on the offense, but it’s always someone trying to be that bright light, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The coaches have noticed.
“I mean, he’s the guy that after his route was over he pushed up the field and it was no hesitation. He had a block,” Sullivan said, barely trying to hide his excitement as he recalled that play. “So, a lot of upside with the young man. Happy he’s here for sure.”
Gallman said that he draws a lot of inspiration from his mentor, former NFL running back Terry Allen, a Clemson alumnus who spent 11 years in the NFL with the Vikings, Washington, Patriots, Saints and Ravens, who offered the young man some advice that he applies to this very day.
“When you have the ball in your hands, it’s yours,” Gallman said of Allen’s advice. “When we go through practice, I know where to go because I know what I see. If the coaches are putting their trust to give you the football and you know what you see, just trust it. Of course, trust your offensive line, but if anything breaks down, are you going to be that guy who makes something out of nothing or are you going to be that guy who falls down?”
Gallman wants to be the former and believes that he hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of doing at this level.
“I feel like there’s way more in store that what people haven’t seen, but we have next year for that,” he said. “This was a really good learning year for me.”
Part of the lesson Gallman is taking from this year includes handling adversity. To deal with that, Gallman turned to a good friend of his who went through something similar just last year.
“(Los Angeles Rams running back) Todd Gurley is a good friend of mine. He didn’t have a good year last year, so one of the many things he told me he learned from last year is that it all comes back down to the fundamentals. You can be the best running back in the world, but if nothing’s working and at least the team is fighting to do what you have to do, you’ll be learning something, and you can only get better from it.
“I’m not happy with where we are now—I’ve never had a season like this but it’s something that God is teaching us,” he added. “We’re fighting through adversity and can learn from it. So that’s what I’m taking from the ups and downs from this year.