- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPNNewYork.com
- 0 Shares
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- As David Wilson was dozing off the night before the biggest game of his budding pro career, the rookie had his hotel room television on ESPN Film's "30 for 30" feature, "You Don't Know Bo," on Bo Jackson.
It is only fitting that Wilson watched highlights of one of the best athletes in recent memory the night before producing his own personal record-shattering highlight reel against the New Orleans Saints.
The player whom many of his teammates call the best athlete on the New York Giants set a franchise record with 327 all-purpose yards while scoring three touchdowns to ignite the Giants' 52-27 explosion over the Saints.
Wilson became the first player in NFL history to have 200 kickoff return yards while also rushing for 100 yards in a game.
"I don't know what took him so long," defensive end Justin Tuck cracked.
After starting his season by famously fumbling on his second career carry against Dallas -- which led to the whole did he or didn't he cry episode on the sideline -- Wilson finally gave everyone a glimpse of what he is capable of doing when given the opportunity in the 13th game of the season.
He literally was one step away from breaking multiple touchdowns on kickoff returns, gaining 227 yards on four returns. He averaged 56.8 yards a return, the highest average ever by a Giant with at least three returns in a game. His critical 97-yard touchdown return came right after Eli Manning had thrown a 73-yard pick-six early in the first quarter to Elbert Mack, swinging the momentum back in the Giants' favor.
"That was huge," safety Antrel Rolle said. "He has always been a fraction away from breaking one all year long. It has been something that guys have been pushing him, 'Dave, you can do it.' And he knows he can do it."
Wilson, now the franchise record holder in kickoff return yards in a season with 1,321, looked like a blur on each kickoff as he followed orders on what his assignment was for this game.
Before every game, special teams coach Tom Quinn usually hands out assignment sheets to his players. He didn't give Wilson one this time, telling his returner one thing.
"Just run fast," Wilson said of Quinn's mandate.
Playing against a Saints team that has always looked faster, more athletic and more explosive when they played the Giants in recent years, Tom Coughlin finally unleashed what could be his most dangerous weapon for years to come.
With Ahmad Bradshaw slowed by a knee injury, Wilson exploded in the second half. He had 97 of his 100 yards rushing on 10 second-half carries, including both of his touchdowns.
With Andre Brown out with a broken leg and Bradshaw banged up, Wilson opened the second half at running back and responded with a hard-fought 6-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to push the Giants up 28-13.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Wilson not only showed he had the muscle to handle goal-line duties, but he also showed he can close a game, which is what he did to the Saints with a sensational 52-yard run down the left side with 5:10 remaining.
"Oh man, he made some huge plays when we needed them the most," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "We watch him in practice just do amazing things, whether it is breaking plays or making cuts, that we only see guys that are Hall of Famers make. He definitely is the most athletic [player] on the team."
But the play that Manning enjoyed seeing the most was one that most didn't even notice.
"I said to him, 'Your best play was picking up that three-safety blitz on a play-action,'" Manning said.
Of all the things Wilson did on his record-breaking coming-out party, the rookie may be most proud of that.
All season long, Wilson has heard how he needed to earn the trust of the coaches when it came to pass protection and recognition, how they didn't think he was ready and how all he had to do while at Virginia Tech was run.
While it might have seemed like he had to pay his dues with interest for his fumble against Dallas due to such a long wait, Wilson understood what the coaching staff wanted big picture for their first-round pick.
"I didn't have the greatest start for a rookie," Wilson said. "And rookies have little room for error. At that point, I was put in position that I had to gain the coaches' trust again. I stuck with it and kept working and working, and I knew eventually my opportunity would come again."
With the Redskins and Cowboys both winning in dramatic fashion minutes before the Giants kicked off against the Saints, the defending champs needed this win badly.
They had lost three of their previous four games, endured the emotions of going through Hurricane Sandy and trying to lift the spirits of the area to losing physical games against the Steelers and Redskins.
With their next two games on the road at Atlanta and Baltimore, the Giants had to take a stand for once against Drew Brees, who was 4-0 against them.
"We've been on a roller coaster," Tuck said. "We have."
On Sunday, though, the Giants enjoyed the thrill of their newest ride –- the David Wilson experience. They hope it will be provide more hair-raising plays.
But one thing the Giants can do without is Wilson's back-flip touchdown celebration.
"[General manager Jerry] Reese got on me for the flip," Wilson said laughing. "[He] said if you get hurt, I'll be all in your grill."
As Wilson waited to approach the postgame podium, Tuck talked about the rookie's performance and delivered a light-hearted message to the running back.
"Now it's on tape," Tuck said, looking right at Wilson. "We are going to expect that from him every game."
David Wilson took his coach's words to heart and then took off on Sunday.